Lipstick Under My Burkha : Movie review
Release date: September 22, 2018
Lipstick Under My Burkha : Movie review
Director: Alankrita Srivastava
Cast: Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey
After a long and controversial battle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha finally hits theatres on Friday.
With all the hue and cry around it, you would expect a film that is all about sex. Except, this isn’t.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is a simple story about four women and their dreams – of financial independence, of becoming a singer, of moving to a big city and of simply, enjoying life. The fact that these desires remain hidden from the society makes their desires seem like adventurous trips. Lipsticks, in the film, are these desires while the patriarchal society is the Burkha.
The film does not loudly cheer feminism or as CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani calls it, “lady-oriented”. Alankrita chooses a subtle narrative style to tell us the stories of four different women who are fighting a male chauvinist society and mindset. And therein lies the beauty of Lipstick Under My Burkha which is set in a small town.
Alankrita shows a very relatable and authentic Bhopal in her movie and her characters are all realistic. They have their own set of small, yet, irritating problems dealing with the male-dominated society.
Shireen (Konkona) is a housewife who works a salesgirl but needs to hide her job from her husband (Sushant). Bua jee aka Usha (Ratna) is a 55-year-old woman rendered devoid of desires because of her age but enjoys reading soft porn hidden in her religious books.
Leela (Aahana) is a free-spirited woman who feels suffocated in the small town of Bhopal and uses her sexuality to manipulate the men in her life. Rihanna (Plabita) is a young college girl who idolises Miley Cyrus and wants to follow her fashion style. She has to hide her desires of a becoming a singer under a burkha, thanks to her orthodox parents.
Every character in the film deals with different kinds of prejudices and restrictions but eventually, they prove to be the same – curbing the freedom of women. The small town setting enables the four characters to be part of each others’ lives and eventually come together.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is no didactic piece on how women should be treated, neither is it an all-out-war against patriarchy. The film is a subdued conversation starter – let us talk about women’s desires as well as their rights, let women open up about their dreams.
Lipstick under my Burkha brings in a lot of issues – from dictates on women’s clothing to forced sex in a marriage, it addresses all of them boldly. This is a bold film not because it talks of women’s sexuality but because it draws attention to their desires and problems and does so in the most glaring colours.
Alankrita has an army of wonderful actors to support her engaging movie. Be it Sushant, Konkona, Plabita, Ratna, Vikrant or Aahana, all of them belong to their characters and are impressive. This is one of those rare films in which it is difficult to pick a favourite but Konkona’s performance rises among them as she is the one who is not dependent on others to fulfil her desires. Not to complain about others’ dreams as they simply happen to be such that cannot be completed without others’ help.
It is laughable that the CBFC had problems with such a light film that merely talks about women nurturing their own desires that cross the boundaries of a male-dominated society.
While the final scene of the film might work for some,I would have loved it had it been more decisive. A closure to the narratives would have provided for a more positive and optimistic cinema, what Lipstick Under My Burkha aims to be.
This is a film you must not miss as it is not everyday that Bollywood films talk of women and their desires.