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Dolly, Kitty and their power to dream

Latha Srinivasan | Updated on October 01, 2020 Published on October 01, 2020

Freedom and the city: Konkona Sen Sharma in a still from Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare   -  IMAGE COURTESY: NETFLIX

Alankrita Shrivastava, director of ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’, on why women must dream and dare to fail

As a woman storyteller, director Alankrita Shrivastava, widely feted for her 2016 film Lipstick Under My Burkha, has carved a niche for herself in the Hindi cinema industry. Her new film — Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare — starring Konkona Sen Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar, Vikrant Massey, Amol Parashar and Aamir Bashir, has earned mixed reviews, with some praising it for its stand on morality and sexuality, and others criticising it for dealing with too many themes all at once. In a chat with BLink, Shrivastava talks about the making of the film (released on Netflix on September 18) and why she chose to bring to the screen the story of two cousins in Noida. Excerpts from the interview:

Filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava

 

What was the inspiration behind this film?

I don’t know what the inspiration was per se but I think the story did emerge from my sense of familiarity with Noida and Greater Noida. My mom lives in Noida and she’d invested in a place in Greater Noida and I went there, off and on, to check out the property. She’d talk about how it was the bubbling new place and I felt it was interesting to see the outlying areas of Delhi which were not Delhi. It made me think about what it was like for women who went there, wanting to make a life for themselves and thinking they were going to the Capital city, but it was not really the Capital. I wanted to explore what happens when you’re in search of freedom in a city; when you’ve left the shackles of maybe a patriarchal set-up back home in a smaller town. Freedom doesn’t just come to you; it comes at a price. I wanted to explore that and also the dynamics of sisterhood. This story has been with me for some time. I wrote a sketchy draft even before I shot Lipstick...

The focus in Lipstick… and Dolly Kitty… is on women and sexuality, the choices they make for survival or fulfilling their dreams. Why are these themes essential to your films?

I think the idea of what it is that women want and are they free is what I have been trying to delve into right from my first film. Dolly Kitty... is about the fact that freedom is a noble ideal to strive for and, no matter what the price, it’s actually worth it. I’m quite involved with this idea of women being free. We don’t exist in a vacuum; there are always compulsions of money, familial ties, and other such things which create the framework from where we are operating.

Dolly Kitty… also highlights alternative sexuality, geography, corruption in real estate and so on. Do you think you’ve touched upon too many issues in this film?

I don’t think so. I feel this is the backdrop of what’s happening in their (the protagonists’) lives. For me it is important that we don’t just see people on the surface... We are used to a sanitised version of life in cinema, a lot of gloss and froth and seeing things from a linear perspective. We are used to seeing a character who has a particular goal, faces obstacles and achieves that goal — that’s the traditional arc of a story. We’re not used to characters who don’t know what they want. Dolly and Kitty don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s not like they have one specific aim or goal... [which] they’re working towards. Perhaps people aren’t used to seeing so many layers — but that’s how I see it. For me, this is the world.

The film talks about women fulfilling their dreams. Is this something you feel strongly about?

I do. Women are taught to always serve other people. It’s ingrained in them that this is their primary purpose — be an amazing mother, wife, daughter, etc, always in relation to how you can serve patriarchy. We’re not trained or taught to understand what it is that we want, and that what we want is precious and worth striving for. Everything is about giving precedence to the man’s dream. It bothers me a lot that we are not taught that we too have an equal right to dream and to work towards fulfilling — or even trying for — that dream.

There are aspects of rejection and failure in the film…

I think there’s a lot of beauty in failure. Winning and losing are not so simple. Something horrible can happen to you and that can have a seed for great growth in your life. Sometimes a good thing can happen and that can make you plateau or regress. I think both are lovely to strive for, but as women it’s important to embrace our disappointments because there are many. We must move ahead despite being constantly stopped.

I think because women live in a world that has been designed by men and designed to perpetuate more and more power to men, they have to do much more to survive, because they are battling invisible barriers. This makes women more resilient. Men are not taught to look inwards at all and they suffer as well from the idea of what a man should be. That hampers their growth, too. I’m in favour of this idea that in the depths of failure always lie the seeds of future long-term victory. I think that’s a nice way to live.

Latha Srinivasan is a journalist based in Chennai

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Published on October 01, 2020
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