Films that hope to convey the concerns of womankind today are often confined to the discrimination they inevitably face in negotiating through life and career. But Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare dares to delve into the bedroom banter that hardly makes it to mainstream movies. A husband who pins his inability to pleasure his partner on her compromised sex drive. A child struggles to keep up with his gender-assigned role. A married woman who heads off on awkward excursions with an acquaintance to tick off all that she’s possibly denied herself. But this story is also synonymous with the aspirations and dreams of those who populate emerging new cities. On the cusp of big city comfort, convenience and debauchery and the sexual repression of mofussil towns, these spaces offer a compelling setting to narrate stories of marital discord, unsatiated urges and claiming one’s sexuality which are often blindsided for the fear of being stigmatised.
A disillusioned Noida wife and mother, Radha Yadav/ Dolly (Konkona Sen Sharma) is deliberately in denial about her husband’s lecherous ways. When her cousin Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar), who moves in with them briefly, complains about her jijaji’s sexual advances, she dismisses it, even blaming it on her post-pubescent age, a life stage typically dominated by “hormones ki barsaat”. But when Kajal moves out and bags a job with a naughty phone line for an e-commerce company where she goes by Kitty, things escalate at a clip. Even Dolly decides to fill the void in her life by plunging into an extramarital with a delivery boy who frequents the household. The parallel tracks collide when Kajal needs her cousin to bail her out of prison, following a series of unfortunate turns. And eventually, the sisters who initially hissed judgmentally at the other’s misdemeanours and life choices, begin to understand their need to self-prioritise.
Konkona has to be one of the most underrated actresses in the industry. Here, she’s saddled with a multi-layered character and effectively and often, wordlessly conveys what her Dolly feels and also what she’d rather not reveal. Pednekar as the docile yet determined, fresh-off-the-boat Biharan is largely convincing and closely sees her Kajal transition from a fragile female to one with a hardened exterior. The male cast here is, evidently, largely peripheral to the proceedings. That said, Amol Parashar as the enterprising delivery boy and Vikrant Massey as the bored ward boy who leads a double life, both show conviction. Even Aamir Bashir as Dolly’s husband Amit, effectively translates the bloated yet hollow male ego, complete with grunts and sighs.
In Lipstick under my burkha, director Alankrita Shrivastava fleshed out the spectrum of emotions that many Indian women dread to even acknowledge, let alone seek out or experience. In a similar setup here, she carves ferocious female leads who somehow manage to straddle their societal roles, ambitions and needs. While the lens is turned inward to examine the sacrifices and diminishing desires, what plays out on the screen is often reactionary. And while this film explores the boundaries of intimacy that confine one, it also drives a compelling argument for pulling them down to accommodate and serve oneself to please.