Spoilers ahead about ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’.
One of the reasons Konkona Sensharma was drawn to playing Dolly in Alankrita Shrivastava’s Netflix film Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare was that she had never played such a “morally ambiguous and transgressive character before”, the 40-year-old actor told Scroll.in.
In the September 18 release, Sensharma is Radha, nicknamed Dolly. She initially comes across as a model mother-wife-employee, until it is revealed how imperfect her facade is. She shares a warm but complex relationship with her cousin Kaajal aka Kitty (Bhumi Pednekar), who is on her own trajectory of self-awareness.
“The usual kind of roles I had always played are morally upright and strong women,” Sensharma observed. “But women are not always that sanitised in real life. They may not always act responsibly or make the right life decisions. So Dolly also lies, cheats, steals to find herself, and it was so relatable and well fleshed-out, that things just came together.”
Making her acting debut as a mentally troubled teenager obsessed with a much older man in the 2001 Bengali film Ek Je Aachhe Kanya, Sensharma has gone on to play several performance-heavy roles in Hindi, Bengali, and English movies. She won a National Film Award for Best Actress for her work in her mother Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer in 2003 when she was 24.
Sensharma acted in acclaimed films such as Page 3 (2005), 15 Park Avenue (2005), Dosar (2006), Omkara (2006), Life… in a Metro (2007), Luck By Chance (2009), Wake Up Sid (2009), Talvar (2015), and Shrivastava’s earlier film Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017). Three years ago, she also made her debut as a writer-director with A Death in the Gunj, for which she won a Filmfare Award for Best Debut Director. Excerpts from an interview.
After Dolly has sex with the delivery man Osmaan, she looks a bit lost, and only smiles when he gets close to her again. What were you thinking?
I can’t exactly remember what, but at that moment, she felt release. She had always convinced herself that she was frigid, blaming herself for her sex life. She also hadn’t had an orgasm for years. So this was a moment when it dawned upon that the problem was never really with her, that the burden of an unfulfilled sex life doesn’t necessarily rely on her.
Dolly’s son does not conform to gender norms. What lies ahead for the child?
This is a common problem and experience many people do have. But it is seldom acknowledged. At least this movie raises awareness about it. We may not have the solution immediately, But this movie dealt with the issue with empathy, dignity, compassion, the idea being that we will talk about it at least, and that’s how we can figure out solutions.
It seems like you moved from one great film to another in the last 20 years, with the hiccups in between never making a dent to your career.
I never planned my career. I never knew what I’d be offered. I must say I was lucky and fortunate that I got interesting roles, and people also watched them. Many fortuitous things came together to make my career what it is.
Because of my mother, who by and large made alternative cinema, I always knew how hostile the environment was for unconventional films. I did not grow up with a lot of mainstream films anyway, so I never identified with them.
Some of my best work is in Dosar and 15 Park Avenue, but not many people watched them. I am comfortable with that. Deciding to work as I have done is not always the easiest choice, but it is the choice that makes sense to me.
Did you ever have the insecurities of chasing big banners or the fears of being typecast?
These things were never a priority. I always wanted to do good, meaningful, respectable cinema that I won’t cringe seeing 10-20 years later. Of course, I have done a film here and there for money, because I need to build a career. Sometimes, I thought the script is not bad, money is also decent, let’s do it. But it’s not like I had any ambition to work with big banners.
More and more films examining patriarchy, including your directorial debut ‘A Death in the Gunj’, are being made today.
It is wonderful that these films are being made. We should always question what is handed down to us as tradition. Not everything received or inherited culturally has to be good. Sati or slavery were legal and acceptable, but not necessarily humane. It is always necessary to question the status quo.
Do you see these films adding up to be part of a larger movement?
Hard for me to say. It depends on how good the films are. Just because it deals with these subjects doesn’t make the film automatically good. You can also make some terrible art films.
I am not concerned with any movement. I have been asked this question of, do you think the times are changing, so many times, like when Mr and Mrs Iyer and Page 3 came. I don’t know. They must be changing. I don’t keep up with trends. All I am invested in is making my life interesting and meaningful, and hopefully make others’ lives interesting and meaningful as well.
What’s next for you?
I am in Seema Pahwa’s directorial debut Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Then I am in Nikkhil Advani’s web series, which is based on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. I am also writing something.