Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare Review: Konkona, Bhumi Hit The Spot In This Messy Delve Into Female Desire
If the country’s current attitude towards women is any indication, it is evident that we’re actually moving so slow that it feels like we’re going backwards. (We are.) There is a dearth of freedom anyway right now, whether it is of expression, practicing one’s faith or exploring one’s sexuality. As for women, neither are their acche din coming, and nor are they… coming, if you know what I mean. Alankrita Shrivastava’s latest directorial venture, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, seems poised to add some more ghee to the fire she ignited with Lipstick Under My Burkha. The film’s trailer gave us a glimpse into the lives of two cousin sisters, Dolly, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, and Kajal aka Kitty, played by Bhumi Pednekar, both small-town girls living in Greater Noida, and stumbling their way through the dark to find their starry sky of freedom. What freedom, you ask? To earn their own money, live their own lives, realise their own dreams, and discover their own sexual pleasure. The film, which dropped on Netflix today, also stars Vikrant Massey, Amol Parashar, Aamir Bashir, Neelima Azim, Kubbra Sait and Karan Kundrra.
The world of Dolly Kitty
The film starts just as the trailer begins, with Konkona Sen Sharma’s Dolly Didi assuring her cousin sis, Bhumi Pednekar’s Kaajal, that it’s a good thing she left her small-town and joined them in Noida. Now everything will be taken care of. The two are enjoying at an amusement park with Dolly’s husband, Amit, and her two kids Bharat and Pappu in tow. A bunch of things happen here—Amit touches his sister-in-law inappropriately. Dolly brushes off Kajal when she tells her of her husband’s transgression. And Bharat mocks his younger brother Pappu’s attempt to cross-dress as Mumtaz Mahal when they’re taking a Mughal-e-Azam themed costume family photo.
Mrs Radha Yadav aka Dolly seems happily married, with a government job she tells everyone she is doing just for fun, and living in a house that resembles a shady hotel. I kid you not, there are beaded curtains, LED backlighting, a certain colour palette with bursts of gaudy pinks and crimson, throughout the movie, but most in Dolly’s home. It is all temporary though, because they’re soon going to move into a new home, if only the construction were to finish soon. We find out through this plot line that Dolly’s job is perhaps not a hobby by literally pays for most things her family enjoys. She’s the one making ends meet, doing all sorts of jugaad to keep the house running. It made me wonder if perhaps that makes her hubby feel emasculated. Because, it’s been two years since they’ve had sex.
Oh, also, Dolly has mommy issues. Her mother (Neelima Azim) eloped with her lover when Dolly was just a kid. That, coupled with Amit thinking Dolly is ‘thandi’ (frigid) because of their dormant sex life, makes him tell her that their younger son’s feminine habits are due to his mother’s unresolved sexual blockage. Amidst all that, a young, genteel delivery boy, Osman Ansari, enters her life, better late than never, and helps her rekindle the fire with a boink so good, she sees the stars, and the truth.
Kajal’s life is at the edge of a cliff, as she is ready to jump into the freedom that this big city of dreams offers. She moves out of her sister’s house to get away from her jiju‘s roving eye. She also ditches her original job and begins working at a call centre as a female phone companion for lonely men, nicknamed Kitty. Her job is to sweet talk them to increase her ‘star’ rating and cajoling them into spending money on gifts like fake red roses, red stuffed toys and chocolates. Told you, lots of red. Her call centre job pays more and allows her to rent a bed in a hostel where a motley group of women live. It’s here that she becomes buds with Shazia (Kubbra Sait), a woman who lives life on her own terms, isn’t afraid of extracting what she wants from life (or men), and is having a fling with one gabru jawan DJ Gujjar (Karan Kundrra).
Initially, the thought of talking to perverted men makes her vomit, but she slogs on because of the independent life that the job accords her. She hates that her first ‘I love you’ was spoken to a client, but the job also leads her to Pradeep, a client-turned-lover, who, as we know from the trailer itself, has much to hide. When the truth comes out, it is surely going to hurt Kitty. But you know how it sometimes hurts when it’s your first time; but only later does the sweet pleasure come.
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Dolly Kitty must navigate a really messy, crowded, and long night sky to find their chamakte sitare. And that’s a problem….
Let me begin by saying that I was looking forward to this movie for a lot of reasons. Director, screenplay and dialogue writer Alankrita Shrivastava’s filmography (Lipstick Under My Burkha, Made In Heaven), for starters. The cast is one talented bunch of peeps—Konkona and Bhumi are both stellar actors; Vikrant Massey is always making his roles stand out; and Aamir Bashir and Amol Parashar are also actors we’ve seen so much of and have always appreciated. But chiefly, because of these two things, I felt that the subject of female sexuality, it’s exploration, and its repression would be quite deftly dealt with.
Was it, though? The answer is ummm… yes. There are some impactful dialogues, some gestures, some instances especially in Dolly’s story, that make important points about how men just don’t want to let women be, say and do what they want to. And even if they do, it always becomes this huge thing between them that passive-aggressively influences their relationship. With Dolly, it isn’t just her frozen sexual desire, but also the fact that her husband doesn’t really recognise the role she plays in their life. And perhaps she lets him off because she thinks she’s unable to satisfy him in the way she wants to. I wish, though, that we’d known more about why the lull in Dolly and Amit’s sex life set in. Because in a refreshing surprise, when he finds out his wife cheated on him, his reaction is so… different. You’ll see what I mean.
In Kitty’s story, these ideas manifest themselves more blatantly. She’s catcalled and eve-teased in this big city. She gets judged for her job, by the very brother-in-law who uses the service she works for. She is called words like ‘randi’ and ‘kulta’, sometimes by her own sister. And even when she thinks she has found true love, she realises it is as fake as her name ‘Kitty’.
The thing is Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is the story of these two sisters, but in its complex storytelling, it has created an entire galaxy, with stories that spin-off to make solar systems of their own. Zyada metaphors ho gaya na? See, you got bored and lost interest? Same.
Simply put, there’s just too much happening here! A commentary on moral policing, Hindu-Muslim divide, sexual harassment, abandonment, female desire, middle class struggle, sibling bond and also a queer storyline. They’re all quite well entangled, and don’t feel forced. But these sub-plots do give you a sense of déjà vu, and might make you question if the point the film was trying to make really need to go on for two whole hours.
Despite that run-time, a lot of the secondary characters, which are cast with good actors (Kubbra Sait, Karan Kundrra, Neelima Azim), feel underdeveloped and therefore wasted. What’s worse, is that when the climax finally comes, you don’t. It feels rushed somehow, much like Kitty’s first time, and you’re feeling quite overwhelmed but a tad unsatisfied, I guess?
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Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar shine the brightest.
The performances are, without a doubt, top notch. I think Konkona’s Dolly is hands down my favourite. Her arc seems more gradual and unexpected, and for me, defines more aptly what Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare would be about. Bhumi Pednekar has this small-town girl act down pat, and I think she did a fab job as the candid, slightly naïve but fearless nevertheless, Dolly. Her arc was the one that felt super Bollywood-esque, with every single small-town-girl-comes-to-big-bad-city trope in it. But she’s a fine actress who pulled through all that, also getting some of the best dialogues in the film.
Special mention for the men in Dolly Kitty’s life. It is hard to imagine Vikrant Massey as a sleazy-cheesy douche, especially after his Chhapaak act. He is just so…! You know? But Massey sahab did good, made us love-hate him, and that’s what matters. Amol Parashar’s Osman is the kinda guy every girl wishes she was dating. Sweet, polite, caring (in all ways that matter *wink*) and ambitious, played by Amol to the T. Aamir Bashir, I feel, is born to play grey characters that you cannot decide if you love or hate!
Female desire can’t shine because there’s so much pollution in our minds!
I’ve always thought that female sexuality is such a complex, fascinating thing to explore. I felt Dolly’s pain when she talked about not being able to pretend that she was happy anymore. Think about how many women are living unfulfilled lives right now in every single aspect. I’ve seen the comments on the movie’s trailer saying, “Oh here we go again, women and sex!” but I want to say, “YES, WOMEN AND SEX!” Because if we lived in a world where men’s sexual desires went unfulfilled, sex would be banned completely and the resulting frustration would lead to a World War every other year.
Repressing women’s desires, sexual or otherwise, is not about their safety or culture or honour. It is a power play. In Dolly’s words, men just intentionally want women to be thanda because, baby, if we were burning hot…. I’m telling you, there’d be so much happiness and contentment around, we could bring about world peace, and we’d be on top. All the time.
The point is, thanks to rigid gender roles and oppressive patriarchy that has turned even fellow women into hardcore misogynists, our minds are polluted AF. And as Delhi peeps will tell you, polluted aasmaan mein chamakte sitare nahi dikhte!
I’ll be honest, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare really felt like that romp that I was expecting to blow my mind, but it was just okay. Nevertheless, it did make some very important points, and started conversations about female sexual desire and freedom that we need to delve deeper into. So stay with it, even if it feels too long. That’s what she said.