The controversial, but critically acclaimed masterpiece “Lipstick under my Burkha” was released in theatres across India on the 21st of July. Having overcome several hurdles throughout its journey, the film now celebrates commercial success along with appreciation from critics. Broaching many crucial subjects that impact women, both across India and beyond, the director, Alankrita Shrivastava, ensures that the film initiates a conversation that has long been overdue.
The grand plot
The film centres around the lives of four very different women living in a small town in Bhopal, interconnected by family, locality, and perhaps most significantly, a certain sense of imprisonment in their everyday life.
Shirin Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a smart woman shackled down by her marriage to a man who merely sees her as a sex object. Usha Parmar (Ratna Pathak Shah), the matriarch of the society, seems to be every bit the respected woman people expect her to be. However, she has repressed sexual desires and she deals with them by reading erotic novels hidden by her religious books.
A beautician, Leela (Aahana Kumra), has ambitions that go beyond the confines of her current calling. The youngest of the four, college student Rehana Abdi (Plabita Borthakur), feels suffocated by the burkha she’s been forced to wear and trades it for her regular jeans as soon as she is out of her family’s sight.
Dissecting the technicalities
The ‘burkha’ in the title is symbolic of the veil through which society expects them to filter all their actions. The lipstick represents the desires that exist regardless of how they’re veiled. With excellent arcs given to each of their backgrounds, the characters are well fleshed out and tangible.
All four actresses play their roles to perfection, subtly bringing out the different nuances of a repressed woman’s life. Candid and occasionally humorous, the movie doesn’t shy away from raising delicate issues like marital rape, and the patriarchal double standards that exist around birth control.
The film doesn’t overtly try to make a point or direct the viewers’ thoughts in a particular direction. It merely presents things the way they are and allows the scenes to do the talking. This strategy is highly impactful because it ensures that the viewer doesn’t feel forced into an opinion, and also serves the purpose of starting a dialogue amongst the people. The film has also been careful to avoid glorifying certain instances in the name of empowerment, thereby deepening the film’s dimensions.
The legitimacy of the criticism
The movie has been extensively criticised. However, how valid are these criticisms? It was initially banned from being released in cinemas by the Indian censor board. A copy of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) letter to the film’s producer, Prakash Jha, states: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused.”
While there may lie a faint glimmer of reason behind the explanation, the fact that they justified the ban because the film was lady oriented, shows just how much we needed the movie. Overall, the movie is a well thought out project and a riveting watch that deserves every bit of the hype and appreciation it has received over the past few months.
In the current social and political climate, where great strides are being made to alleviate problems faced by women, it is important that films reflect a similar objective. Hopefully, this movie is just the first of the many to come while heralding a change for the better, both for Bollywood and our society, in general.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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