Imagine being the new girl in a big city, where you are having a good time at an amusement park with your first cousin. There are bright colors, all sorts of joyrides, fun photo-booths, your face spread in a wide smile, only to be marred by an unwanted touch; from your brother-in-law. Most Indian women would brush it off and tuck that unpleasant moment in a forgotten corner of their memories. But not Kajal AKA Kitty from Director Alankrita Shrivastava’s new film ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’.

All of this happens in the first five minutes of the film and is also part the trailer, so no spoilers here. This is a tale about two cousin sisters from Bihar, Dolly (Konkona Sen Sharma) who is married with two kids and Kajal (Bhumi Pednekar) who comes to stay with them in Noida to work. The makers explore how their loving relationship turns bitter-sweet after Kajal confesses to Dolly that her husband has been making inappropriate passes at her.

Bhumi Pednekar (who is used to playing small-town girl roles by now) aces her part as Kajal, who tries to take charge of her life and immediately moves out of her sister’s house before things can get complicated. She finds a shady call centre job that caters to horny lonely men on the phone. ‘Kitty’ is her work name. Konkona Sen Sharma won me over as the unsatisfied dreamy Noida wife with a drab job, who just wants to upgrade her life. Since I am from Bihar, I was very impressed with her accent in the film. It wasn’t over-the-top, but was subtle enough to establish her character’s roots.

The casting guys did a great job on this film, with actors managing to shine even in the smaller roles. Vikrant Massey was great as the sleazy man who woos Kitty. Kubbra Sait shines as Kitty’s new friend in town, she is confident and unapologetic about using men for her own needs. Karan Kundra as a DJ is your typical Delhi boy and serves as decent eye candy.

The cinematography in this film was interesting. I feel like they slightly overdid the interiors of Dolly’s house, which looked like a shady love motel. Her room is washed in red tones, red bed-sheets, red heart pillows, with loud pink wallpapers on the wall. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a reflection of Dolly’s garish taste or maybe a metaphor of how love only resides in the in-animate objects of the home and evades the occupants. The few outdoor scenes were very realistic and add to the whole rawness of the film.

Let me be honest, I didn’t like the trailer of this film, but was completely taken aback by how engaging it turned out to be. Despite being 2 hours long, the pace was almost perfect and the narrative keeps you hooked. It’s all about the sisters stumbling and finding their own path the hard way. The makers also deal with multiple themes, including impotence and gender fluidity, a topic that very few Bollywood films touch.

In-fact the most touching sub-plot in the film was about Dolly’s younger son, who loves playing with dolls and dressing up in girl’s clothes. Initially, the mother is confused and deals with it the way Indian moms know best – gives the boy a good thrashing. Contrary to my fears, the makers do not end this sub-plot in an insensitive and gender-conforming manner. There is a heart-breaking scene towards the second half of the film that finally helps the little boy’s mother understand him a little bit, if not completely.

This is the kind of film where there could have been a lot of drama and bawling but director Alankrita Shrivastava explores each theme with maturity. Despite being from sheltered families, the lead characters are emotionally intelligent and not exaggerated caricatures that make grand declarations of love or hate. Also, it was nice to see the leading ladies casually cuss without a care in the world when they are angry.

It’s the climax of the film that was very unexpected, while for most part, the film sailed on calm waters, towards the end, things escalate quickly, as if a storm arrives without knocking and destroys everything. The sudden twist in the end is a tragic turn of events and the lead characters are forced to seriously introspect their lifestyle choices and take tough decisions. Both Dolly and Kitty choose their own stars and leave the audience happy. At least I was mighty satisfied with the ending, even if part of it was slightly cliched, but the rest of it was refreshing. It leaves you with a smile on your face.

It’s a 4 on 5 from me.