Director: Alankrita Shrivastava
Actors: Konkona Sen, Bhumi Pednekar, Amol Parashar and Vikrant Massey
After Lipstick Under my Burkha, Alankrita Shrivastava has come out with another movie that focuses on the issues of women’s desires and sexuality. Women’s desires and sexuality issues are always being pushed back in our society and in the cinema world. Very few directors are interested in making films on these issues and Alankrita Shrivastava is one of these few.
She fought for the release of Lipstick Under My Burkha when it was ready to open in theatres, but this time, the movie has been released on Netflix, so it became somewhat easy for her to avoid censorship. The movie is about the need to flee from a life that is lived in fear, by coming out of a ‘narrow minded village society’ and discovering that a metropolitan life is not easy either. Finally, the movie is also about exploring one’s sexuality but finding it difficulty at every level.
The movie Dolly Kitty Aur Who Chamakte Sitare is a story of two cousin sisters (Konkona Sen and Bhumi Pednekar) exploring their present state and future aspirations. Konkona Sen, who plays the role of Dolly, is already settled in Greater Noida with her husband and two sons. Her life is one of high aspiration and low income. It is further complicated by a below par sex life and her son’s queerness.
Bhumi Pednekar, playing the role of Kajal (a.k.a. Kitty, as she’s known to her call centre clients) is Dolly’s cousin who left her hometown (a village in Bihar) to avoid marrying someone she barely knew. She came to Noida to make a future for herself but instead, struggles to find a foothold in the metropolitan culture of Greater Noida.
After leaving a job as a factory worker at a shoe manufacturer, she ends up working in a call center that requires her to entertain men with romantic conversations over the phone. She reasons that if Bollywood celebrities can sell their bodies to earn money then why can’t she sell romance?
She even believes that there should be such a services for women as well to get romantic calls, perhaps because in this patriarchal society, where romance is limited to sex for a woman. Dolly falls in love with a young delivery boy (played by Amol Parashar), while Kajal finds a guy who genuinely loves her and understands her, but things do not go easy. Please watch the movie yourself to find out about its climax.
The most beautiful thing that I like the most about the film is the role of Dolly’s son, whom we see grappling with his gender identity. He has an affinity towards dolls toys and likes to wear girl’s clothes. It is painfully obvious that he (she) identifies as a girl. This is where the question of gender stereotyping arises; we as parents start enforcing gender roles on our children from childhood without any concern for what their real identity might be.
Dolly tries everything to change the ‘inclinations’ of her son, but to no avail. She gives a ball to him, leaving him to play with boys. When she does not succeed in making him play with them, she starts blaming her own sexuality and past for him.
The movie focuses on gender stereotypes, unequal socio-cultural norms of our society and judgmental attitudes of society when it comes to gender and caste. Although the movie side-lines itself from caste identity — except in a dialogue where Bhumi says that coming from a backward caste in Bihar and living in Delhi is not easy.
However, depiction of such identities is not new — even in Lipstick Under My Burkha, the director played smartly and hid the caste identity. They need to understand that women are not homogeneous groups in India, especially so talking about gender issues and leaving caste behind arises many questions in mind. The intersectionality theory to understand the issue of gender only helps in the case of India. So that is something missing in the movie.
Dolly, Kitty and the rest of the cast in the movie struggle to get only one thing, that is freedom (or azadi). Everyone wants to follow their choices and rights, but are stuck in societal norms and values. The movie succeeded in giving a message about gender roles and choices, but because of so many stories going simultaneously, one can be left confused. And at last, as Bollywood movies never get tired of doing, there is a happy ending.
Talking about performance, all characters give justice to their roles. Bhumi Pednekar and Konkona Sen are best as always, Amol also plays his role well as a sweet, charming delivery boy (people who follow TVF videos would definitely like his acting), Vikrant Massay plays a romantic role with Bhumi Pednekar and nails it.
Finally, I would like to say that the movie is good, but not best. However, give it a watch because it brings out many shades of women’s lives that we as men hardly understand.
The movie is available on Netflix, go and watch with your snacks and chai.