What an epic! A family drama, a coming-of-age, this film is just packed.
It focuses on Dolly, a frustrated housewife, and her cousin Kaajal, who is more like a sister to her. But this film spills out in a hundred directions, taking in storylines with Dolly’s mother and kids, Kaajal’s friends and lovers. Yet it doesn’t lose focus, and you never feel like your time is being wasted. All of it informs how these two characters figure things out for themselves.
Dolly is going through a mid-life crisis, spending money like water, and flirting with this college-age delivery boy. Her sex life with her crappy husband is in the toilet and she is flagging in her ability to maintain her happy families rictus grin.
Kaajal is much younger, and very naive. She comes to live with Dolly in the big city from her small village, but quickly moves out because Dolly’s crappy husband is a sexually predatory creep. Struggling to survive, she turns her hand to everything.
She ends up renting a bed a Christian hostel for unwed and surrogate mothers. Her only pal there is a prostitute. She ends up getting a job in a call centre for a phone sex/romance chat line. As a naive virgin from a conservative rural area, she is totally out of her depth.
The main theme of the movie is about playing the roles required of us as women. Dolly has to be a dutiful wife. Kaajal’s telephone persona is Kitty, who has to alternate between a virgin and whore depending on her client’s fantasy. Dolly has a child, Puppa, that she is raising as her son, but who is constantly tell her that she’s a girl. Puppa is always being told she has to act more like a boy.
This again is echoed in the character of Dolly’s mother. She abandoned her husband and daughter when Dolly was a kid, but is trying to reconnect with her now she is grown. Dolly is full of rage at her. “How could you?!” she asks her furiously. “What kind of mother could do that?!” Her mother is unapologetic, and simply says, she wasn’t happy and she had to live her own life.
There can be nothing more of a betrayal than a woman who lives for herself, rather than servicing the roles required of her. And the arc of the movie is Dolly coming to understand her mother’s decision.
That doesn’t even cover it. I’m giving you the tip of the iceberg here. But what I loved is that the film says that experiences can be ambivalent, but you can still take the good away from them. The power of men and the structure of sexism pervades women’s lives, but it doesn’t need to define them, we can take away from our experiences what we need and what we enjoy from them.