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‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’ Has A Lot Of Lessons To Teach Society

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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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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