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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare review: Alankrita’s film opens spaces and dialogue around the thorny subject of female desire

Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is the kind of film which opens up spaces and dialogue around difficult topics, and raises the feminist bar while doing so: give it many ‘chamakte sitare’ already.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | Updated: September 19, 2020 8:33:00 am
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte SitareDolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is available on Netflix.

Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare movie cast: Konkona Sen Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar, Aamir Bashir, Vikram Massey, Amol Parasher, Kubbra Sait, Karan Kundra, Neelima Azim
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare movie director: Alankrita Shrivastava
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare movie rating: Three and a half stars

Female desire is one of those thorny issues that mainstream Hindi cinema has always had difficulty touching upon: when touch per se is so hard to show on screen without all kinds of self-righteous moral stakeholders making a noise, anything that involves grown men and women and the thing between them becomes a toughie.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare blows off, with a great deal of flair, feeling and courage, the layers of repression and hypocrisy that surrounds us. You can draw a broad thematic connection between the director’s previous film Lipstick Under My Burkha and this one, which can be seen both as a worthy follow-up, and a terrific companion piece.

Dolly (Sen Sharma) lives with her husband Amit (Bashir) and two children in Greater Noida, part of the National Capital Region (NCR). They could well stand in for the Aspirational Nuclear Family In New India: paying instalments for a flat in one of those faceless under-construction high-rises that have sprung up in the area, surrounded by malls, call centres, gyms, all markers of urban progress. From the outside, Dolly’s life appears perfect, but when her cousin Kitty aka Kajal (Pedenkar) from small-town Bihar comes to live with them, the cracks begin to appear.

There’s a lot going on in this busy film, and some of those elements appear to have been lifted straight from the headlines. Saffron-clad goondas targeting courting couples, and liberal, progressive ideas. Call-centres masquerading as phone sex providers. Dodgy clinics combining unwanted babies and childless couples. The air of faint desperation exuding from those involved in unskilled jobs with no security is captured beautifully: both Dolly and Kitty work, but both stare at dead-ends.

Other characters show up. Apart from Bashir who plays the my-way-or-highway entitled spouse, there is Usman (Parasher) as a smart-mouthed delivery boy. Pradeep (Massey) as a two-faced night attendant. D J Johnny (Kundra) as a buff ‘best deejay in Greater Noida’, and his girl-friend (Sait), with her eye on the main chance. We see them interact with Dolly and Kitty, in a revelatory matrix of ambition, frustration and desire: this is a solidly-written film, and growth is part of the arc of each character.

A few lines are too explanatory, some situations are too on-the-nose, and a climactic twist feels a bit too convenient. But those are minor quibbles in a film, so well performed across the board, which says it like it is. We live in a society where illicit carnal connections men make are fine because boys-will-be-boys, but a little boy who likes dolls is not a boy, and women expressing passion are invariably harlots. Dolly is given a chance to realise that her non-existent sex life is not down to her, hallelujah; Kitty leaves an inadequate sexual encounter to actively seek one better. An older woman (Azim) steps past the guilt-trip for having abandoned her family, saying it wasn’t a life she wanted. And there are actual honest up-front conversations between women about what they want, and how they want it, and more importantly, what they don’t want. This is the kind of film which opens up spaces and dialogue around difficult topics, and raises the feminist bar while doing so: give it many ‘chamakte sitare’ already.

Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is streaming on Netflix.

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