Alankrita Shrivastava has become an icon of feminism and women empowerment since the days of Lipstick under My Burkha. She has had her own share of fans ranging from the feminists, critics, #typicalmen (you know for what) and so on. She had the balls...er... I'm sorry. She had the guts to talk about women exploring their sexual preferences and define it for themselves living among extremely judgmental men, chauvinistic men, insensitive men... you get the idea... living among just.... men.
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is also on the same lines. Possibly that's one of the reasons why this film felt longer than the 2 hours run time. Dolly and Kitty are women from a backward community of Bihar. Kajal a.k.a Kitty (the bold and beautiful Bhumi Pednekar) comes to stay with her cousin Dolly (a classy Konkona Sen Sharma just eases into the character) at Greater Noida. She works at a shoe factory that Dolly di helped her join. She doesn't like her job, her jija, or the situation she is in - being dependent. Dolly has her own share of problems. She doesn't believe it when Kajal says that her husband wants to sleep with her. Instead, she blames Kajal saying that she's confused and is attracted to him. Let's just pause here and let me talk about how all of this is established within the first 10 minutes of the film.
The film opens with the two cousins at a fair playing an 'aim-shoot-win' game. A sly reference to the Saand ki aankh (interestingly Bhumi Pednekar is one of the leads in that film too!)? Maybe. Then it moves to the cousins going on a scary ride. That's when the above conversation happens. This film is not just about these two women exploring their sexual preferences or even sex in case of Kitty. After the ride, all of them - Dolly, her husband take a pic of them wearing the costumes from the Mughal-e-Azam era and Kajal stays away. Dolly's husband Amit (Aamir Bashir in fine form) calls her to stand next to her. She hesitantly agrees and Amit touches her inappropriately while the photographer clicks their picture. Even before all of this, there is a blink-and-miss dialogue between the siblings which would explain why one of the kids doesn't want to be who he is.
The rest of the film is about how Kitty finds her true love, Dolly reignites the spark and how she gets better (or not) as a mother. But that's enough about the plot. I want to talk about how this film despite being on similar lines as the director's earlier venture is still fresh in a lot of ways. The first 15 minutes establish the sexual frustration of Dolly, Kajal's fire in the belly to be independent, the kid's love for dolls and Amit's frustration of not having enough money. After this, the film gives us glimpses of the 2014 film Citylights. Especially the scenes where Kajal as Kitty (she works at a telephonic Romance selling company called Red Rose where she is a one-night companion for a lot of lonely and ahem... ahem.. desperate men. She helps them with her voice) discovers the various shades of the people she encounters from the hippy and confident colleague to her clients. Yet there is a difference.
In Citylights, Rajkummar Rao's character is naive and gets pulled into the lights. But Kitty is self-aware and doesn't let anyone pull her in any way. My favourite scene is the one where she runs out of the room, inebriated (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the "Dirty Picture" on a completely different and similar context?) yet cautious and a teeny bit triumphant of having escaped another sexual encounter and retaining her virginity.
The film is replete with such scenes. Dolly has her own share of trysts with destiny. There is a scene where she happens to be dropped by the food delivery guy on whom she has a crush. His dialogues, a reflection of his outlook towards life, make her fall for him - literally at a point. Yet, she withdraws right when they both have a moment and walks towards her house.
It is very refreshing to see men at the receiving end of the dumping - though the dumping itself is not very new, here the women have clarity, and they are not guilty of the choices they make. It doesn't happen all of a sudden either. They face their share of embarrassments, let-downs, emotional and physical lows, and various melting points before they reach this state of clarity and take charge of their life. At this point, they refuse to be pushed around and walked over.
Let's talk about the parenting that's there in the film. Dolly fears that one of her sons doesn't want to be one because she is frigid. (Google what that means). She writes to her mother (SMSes her) to meet. This is another beautiful scene with little background music. It reaches a point where Dolly screams at her with a cuss word. The scene ends with the mother leaving the house. Both of them are teary-eyed and it tugs at our heart but not without having its highs and lows. The staging of each scene like this is just brilliant.
Vikrant Massey in his breezy cameo is just as brilliant. The first date between him and Bhumi in the film very beautifully portrays the awkwardness. However, I would have loved to see the awkwardness melting away with conversation than in a song. I'm not complaining about the song. The song is nice. But when the staging of the first-date awkwardness is set so beautifully, you only want to see more of that.
The justification to the title of the film is given from the perspective of Dolly and Kitty and is very palatable. In effect, despite the film appearing to be lagging at places, this film will definitely raise a lot of questions about our understanding of acceptance, virginity, women's needs, sexuality in kids and more. A must watch for all the radicals and ones open to see their dogmas and opinion broken and/or refined. Depends on how you see it.
Catch this film on Netflix and let us know if you concur or disagree in the comments below!