Hindi cinema has always avoided showing female desire in earnest. Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (DKAWCS) is a rare case where that is not the case.
This sisterhood saga premiering on Netflix is about a lot of emotions, resolutions and acceptance in the world of Indian Sanskari culture. Radha (Konkona Sen Sharma) belongs to a backward caste in Bihar, is a devoted wife, a loving mother and a dutiful employee. However, she suffers from many conflicts arising from her work-life balance: Childcare, her desire for a new apartment, and her “frigid” sex life (which she believes is her own fault).
Her emotional toll is so high that she even ignores her husband’s advances with her cousin Kaajal (Bhoomi Pednekar). Instead, she says that it is probably a young Kaajal who is in love with the “mature Amit.” As Kaajal later correctly points out, Radha is merely surviving, not living her life. Over the course of the film, Radha slowly escapes her dreary existence through the food delivery man Osman. Only then does she begin to realize what she is missing in life and decides to end her misery.
Kaajal, on the other hand, wants to escape the mediocrity of her life and make a place for herself in the city of dreams, Noida, where Radha lives. She refuses to be a modern-day “slave” in the shoe factory and leaves the job for a call store that offers friendship/phone sex as a service.
At first she suffers from society’s construction of morality, but eventually accepts the career choice as a regular, honest service job. She hopes for love and finds the spark with one of the callers, hospice nurse Pradeep (Vikrant Massey), with whom she eventually loses her virginity. After being abandoned by Pradeep, who turns out to be married, Kaajal realizes her freedom, her sense of purpose in life, and her ambition.
The film tackles several issues through various subplots, some of which could have been handled a bit more delicately. The subplots include casual sexism, domestic chores in the office, Radha’s son Pappu struggling with his gender identity, the story of Radha’s mother who abandoned young Radha as a child to pursue her own happiness, real estate scams in Noida, Hindutva rackets, vice squad, etc. Some of these subplots have abrupt endings and deviate unnecessarily from the main plot.
What are the feminist ideas the film espouses?
Like its sister Lipstick Under My Burkha, this film attempts to change the strongly established structure of Hindi cinema, which is based on the heroism of men, by men, and made for male audiences. The politics of representation is a real change in society, which also means that Hindi cinema has long successfully fed patriarchal society and doled out misogyny.