Those who thought Alankrita Shrivastava was bold with Lipstick Under My Burkha, then they must watch this film. She sure pushes further. Our stereotypes hitherto dealt with men’s sexuality and women’s sensuality. Rarely has our cinema given women their space to justify their sexual desires. Paradoxically perhaps, the first example that comes to mind is that of Meena Kumari in Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam. Rare examples like Angry Indian Goddesses do appear few and far between in the collective psyche of our cinema.
The filmmaker did shock with Lipstick and surely seems to have understood that being bold is half the job. It is a moot point whether the viewer would have such an honest depiction if the film were to be seen at a theatre and gone through the usual Scissors Board.
Dolly (Konkona Sen Sharma) hosts her cousin Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar) from a town. However, she needs to move out fast when Amit (Aamir Bashir), the husband of the former, starts making passes at her. While all seems hunky-dory about the Dolly-Amit marriage, two children and a reasonable house to be living in Noida, it is not true. A non-existent physical relationship between the couple is a point of concern.
Kajal is her own person and, after a few job trials, gets the same job that Ayushmann Khurrana opts for in Dream Girl. However, she is very uncomfortable with it. She shares a room with a set of girls who seem to be bold and less bothered about the world around, which includes, specifically, friend Faiza. Strangely, in this strange world of dating/sexual websites, she takes to one customer and without even seeing him, falls in love. Perhaps, the writer director would justify this as an extension of a loner’s desperation.
Dolly finds solace in the company of a food delivery boy Osman (Amol Parashar). She has her ambitions. At work, she even is willing to make money on the sly and invest in a new flat for the family. She is herself a product of a broken marriage when her mother (Neelima Azeem – in an unimpressive cameo) leaves her and walks out when she was a child. She even lies to her husband and feigns illness to have a date with the boy. However, her middle-class morals are shocked when she sees her sister taking to a profession bordering on prostitution and having a date with a guy she met on the dating site.
Kajal, who is now Kitty for her telephonic customers, brooks no nonsense and is willing to debate the hypocrisy in the life of Dolly and how she is in love with Pradeep (Vikrant Massey — another instance of talent not used sufficiently). Fortunately, the two cousins also see similarities in their lives and talk about their hurt romance. Also in the backdrop are the vigilante groups of different hues who in a single incident open up a tin of worms leading to how the relationships are going to be called to take clear stances.
Very daring film indeed. Nice to see a filmmaker shock and make you revisit assumed premises. A brutal film at one level. A probing narrative at another. Bhumi Pednekar lets go of a great opportunity. She is far from her usual confident self. Amol Parashar shows promise. It is a Konkona film. Amazing performance from her. The entire gamut from the girl who is left behind by her mother, to a lady who needs to perhaps do the same, from being judgemental to guilty, from being dubious and ambitious to being self-righteous and dutiful, her performance calls for compulsive viewing.
The film is recommended to those who like to look at matrimony outside its romantic frontiers and from its skewed pretensions, one who is willing to view sex where it hurts and not as voyeurism.
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