Indian filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava’s latest, “Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars” has its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival. The film is about two cousins, who, through their love-hate relationship, enable each other to find freedom.
“For me, in essence the film is an exploration of what it means to be a free woman in a fast-urbanizing India,” Shrivastava told Variety. “The film is about the preciousness of freedom of women, even if it comes at a high price. In a new city, it may seem that women will be free from traditional shackles. But is that really the case? Even in a newly developing city, women have to negotiate their freedom. There are different forces at play. And sometimes, the obstacles are internal.”
“The other theme I have tried to explore is the subversion of romance,” says Shrivastava. “On the one hand romance is often a tool for re-enforcing patriarchal systems. On the other hand romance can be a mode of commerce. And sometimes, it can be a tool of rebellion. Romance is then, a kind of dissent too.”
It has been a busy year for Shrivastava so far and it is set to continue. She directed a few episodes of hit Amazon Prime Video series “Made In Heaven” and chances are that a second season will be greenlit.
“I don’t think ‘Made In Heaven’ could ever have been an Indian film,” says Shrivastava. “First, because I don’t think the censor board would have let it pass, and second because a feature film does not give you the kind of time required to dig into so many different themes, lives and stories and characters. And the slow-burn that once can do with a series – keep peeling off layers bit by bit. I think that freedom to tell the story you want, the way you want to, without passing the censorship test, and the time you get to tell the stories. That is special.”
As of now, Indian OTT platforms practice self regulation and do not fall under the ambit of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Shrivastava has history with the Indian censors. In 2017, her “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, also about women in search of different kinds of freedom, was initially banned for, amongst other things, being “lady oriented, their fantasy above life,” according to the letter the CBFC sent to the producers. The ban was lifted later after a national outcry.
Rounding off the year for Shrivastava will be another series, this time for Netflix, “Bombay Begums” which is in the final stages of scripting, with principal photography due to commence in the winter. “It’s a tale of female ambition, told through the lives of five different women of different ages,” says Shrivastava. “It’s set in today’s times, in Mumbai. It explores the triumphs and disappointment, the joy and the dilemmas of urban, working women in depth.”
And once that is done, the prolific filmmaker has plans for three more features, with female protagonists, told from a female point of view.
“Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars” is produced by Balaji Telefilms and stars Konkona Sen Sharma” (“Lipstick Under My Burkha”) and Bhumi Pednekar (“Sonchiriya”). Zee Studios International will distribute the film globally in February 2020.