When making chai, at first, you have your ingredients sorted out. To make a strong cuppa we drink in this part of the world, you have your leaves, water, milk, sugar, and maybe some masala to add to the flavor. Anything beyond that will most likely spoil your chai, instead of enhancing its taste.
This is exactly what happens to “Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare” being streamed on Netflix from September 18 this year. It has enough ingredients to make it a fine cup of chai, but the filmmakers keep adding to the concoction, somewhat spoiling the taste.
Written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced under the banner of Indian visual-media mogul Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare circles around the lives of Radha "Dolly" Yadav (Konkona Sen Sharma) and Kajal “Kitty” Yadav (Bhumi Pednekar). With these two women as main characters, the film narrates the struggles of women for independence, the sexism they have to face in both their personal and professional lives, the harassment they are subjected to, the restrictions put on them by the society, and with the help of a child Pappu (Kalp Shah) also shows the struggle of a non-binary person to be accepted in their middle-class South Asian family.
As already mentioned, the film has many subplots but at the same time it is not unimaginably chaotic. Alankrita Shrivastava, who also penned and directed the Filmfare-nominated “Lipstick Under My Burkha” (2017) among other socially compelling films, misses the cinematic benchmark it created by only a few points in this 2hrs 6mins long drama. Meaning, the film is an entertaining package despite its overcompensating subplots.
Dolly (Sharma) lives in Noida with her husband Amit (Aamir Bashir) and two sons Bharat (Hearty Singh) and Pappu (Shah). The middle-class family is desperately saving up to upgrade to a luxury apartment, with Dolly even stealing from her employers and selling her jewelries to pay for installments, unbeknownst to her husband. Kitty (Pednekar)—Dolly’s cousin from rural Bihar—has come to live with the family temporarily while she tries to be financially independent so that her family doesn’t force her to get married.
The film starts with Kitty complaining to her elder sister Dolly about her husband Amit making unwanted sexual advances towards her. Shaken, but still adamant about her ‘perfect life’, Dolly at first writes it off as a misunderstanding and then lightly accuses Kitty of wanting to sleep with Amit because of her infatuation. Uncomfortable, Kitty seeks urgently to find a decent job and move out of the house.
Thus begins a flurry of conflicts for the two women as Dolly confronts the reality of her loveless, passionless marriage, and the seemingly naïve Kitty gets to see the world for what it is. The two women battle harassment, sexism, patriarchy, and their own conflicted selves in this coming-of-age film where a number of other characters come into their lives to make them question their identities and help them reveal the reality.
But despite many supporting characters and subplots, it is up to Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar to carry the film on their shoulders, which they do with great conviction. Both the actors, criminally underrated in the industry, deliver a realistic performance which the audience can relate to.
Who should watch it?
A 700-word review is not enough to explain the various emotions that “Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare” evokes. Despite feeling overwhelmed at times with so many inputs, the movie definitely hooks the audience throughout and the messaging is clear and concise. Almost near the end, Dolly makes the perfect cup of chai for herself and relishes it. We are sure most of our audience will relish the movie the same way.