Translation: Dolly, Kitty and the Shining Stars
The story revolves around two cousins , Dolly and Kitty. Dolly and her husband Amit live in Greater Noida in a flat kindly described as lived in and cozy. They plan to move out and get a bigger place for their two kids.
Kajal comes to the city from a small village in Bihar looking for work and connects with Dolly. Cue a cutesy montage of them going around the town frolicking as seen in the trailer.
Dolly’s husband Amit hits on her which she immediately rallies to her sister. Dolly however brushes her off and tells her that she must’ve misunderstood his intentions.
Kajal’s lands a job at the factory at her sister’s sifaarish but soon ends up quitting at the mistreatment. Because of the little amount of skills she possess she finds it hard to find a well paying job. Hesitatingly, she ends up taking up a job as a call center employee as a “cyber lover”.
Dolly on the other hand seems to be grappling with her own set of problems. An absent mother, financial troubles and her “coldness” towards her husband. Her younger son Pappu, played by the absolutely adorable Kalp Shah also causes tribulation when he takes up a liking for traditionally feminine things. Apart from this Dolly is also going through what her husband calls a mid-life crisis.
Written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastav of Lipstick under my burkha and Four More shots please fame, the movie places a mirror in the middle class society’s life in modern India. Where big buildings start construction with great pompous but fail to finish. Where women roam freely and party to their heart’s content but are left to fend for themselves against catcallers by quickening their pace.
The characters are strong, opinionated and capable women. They yearn to live life on their own terms but struggle with their own internalized misogyny. They can see the injustice doled out to them but are hesitant to call it out.
Dolly takes up a liking for her delivery boy, a sweet, innocent, bhondu type. It is never made explicitly clear if her feelings for him are romantic in nature but she certainly is attracted to him in ways she isn’t to her husband. Kajal on the other hand, meets a guy through her call center alter ego, Kitty and ends up falling for him.
Both women are in search of their chamakte sitare but have to fight against society’s (and each other’s) moral policing. The half constructed building that Dolly and her husband have bought is perhaps a metaphor for these women’s half lived lives. There is hope of course but there is also the deep, unsettling anxiety of never reaching completion (pun intended).
A couple of interesting subplots arise including one with Kubra Sait’s character who plays the bold, city girl showing around the ways of life to Kitty. There is a saffron clad mob that beats up lovers hanging out in public places. And perhaps the most interesting and heart wrenching one involving Dolly’s son Pappu. These are supported by strong performances by Amol Parashar, Aamir Bashir and Vikrant Massey. Dolly’s mother played by Neelima Azeen makes an appearance and makes for a powerful, and emotional scene. However, she never comes up again.
In fact, the film fails to do justice to most of these subplots and outright disposes off of its characters in a rather outlandish climax scene.
It also does not do justice to it’s lead characters and some of the layers seem to be a result of the actresses’ caliber and talent. Bhumi Pednekar is just the right amount of insecure and strong headed and dishes out a splendid act. Konkona Sen Sharma’s Dolly does a commendable job of holding the film together and also move forward Kitty’s arc. She goes from being jealous and impudent of her sister to empathizing and becoming her confidante.
The movie is sincere, relevant and makes several important points. This is exactly why it is upsetting to see it not reach its complete potential. Even so it manages bring out the complex aspects of womanhood and tells a story of the little victories of freedom and acceptance.
The movie comes from Ekta Kapoor’s banner Balaji Telefilms. Ekta Kapoor, seems to be atoning for her voluntary dismantling of female relationships in the TV with films like this. But hey as they say, count your wins and look out for the stars, even in the darkness :’)
Dolly, Kitty aur woh Chamakte Sitare is available to watch on Netflix.