Lipstick Under My Burkha isn't meant to start a revolution; it's an audacious film promoting self-love
Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha is an audacious film. It is not as unhinged as say, Aditya Chopra's romantic comedy from last year, Befikre was. The women in the film do not go about being 'befikre' on the streets to prove a point. In fact, they do so within the confines of their own self-discovery.
As much as it is heartening to see the four lead women in the film — played by Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur — indulge in guilty escapist pleasures, it is equally hard hitting to see them get relegated to square one time and again.
But it is in their conscious attempt to subvert the patriarchal powers that be, rather than braving a confrontation, that you end up rooting for them even more.
The film is an audacious attempt, not in its tonality, but in its tendency to talk about taboo issues in such a matter-of-fact way.
Sex is projected more as a need than a want. Sexual arousal, through masturbation and phone sex, is depicted as an act as normal for a 55 year old as for a 15 year old. Also, the focus is not limited to sexual desires. Two out of four stories in the film also touch upon how women are treated as prisoners and not allowed to pursue their dreams and assert their individuality.
A large part of the narrative around the film has been built as a defiant reaction to patriarchal impositions, symbolised by the absurd reasoning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). "Too lady oriented" and "contagious sex scenes" were allegations that were thrown at Lipstick Under My Burkha by the CBFC allowing the PR machinery to bank on it.
The second trailer of the film was glaringly different from the first one, in terms of its syntax and emphasis. It no longer laid focus on the central narrative around the film. Instead, it just threw light on the environs of the film and slingshotted it as an open act of defiance.
But amidst the "women-oriented" promotions of the film, from which the male stakeholders like Prakash Jha and Vikrant Massey, were conveniently kept away, there was one voice of reason who reiterated how Lipstick Under My Burkha is not a revolution.
It is a deeply entertaining film that unsettles you but also gives you the tools to deal with that desolation.
“Sex is just part of it, everything is getting distracted by sex [sic], probably because of the in-your-face trailer that has people intrigued but that is not the real point. I was relieved greatly that it is not a sensational, titillating film and it was a very tough line to balance the story. Anything this way or that way would have tipped it into the area of the unacceptable. But Alankrita (Srivastava, the director) managed the tight-rope walk beautifully, and after the relief came great satisfaction and happiness. It’s one of the most powerful films I have ever worked on. The story has been told with restraint and intelligence," said Ratna Pathak Shah, in an exclusive interview to Firstpost.
'Restraint' and 'intelligence' are indeed the secret ingredients of this concoction. Had it been an idealistic attempt to pierce through the veil and give everyone a taste of their lipstick, it would have oversold itself as a product of chest beating feminism. What it does manage to achieve is that the lipstick, which is mightier than sword, can be a personal tool too.
While it is unfortunate that the veil exists in the first place, this film tells women behind them how to celebrate their individuality, sexuality being a part of it, within their own framework.
Shah exerting her individuality, to maintain that Lipstick Under My Burkha is not intended to spark a revolution, assumes great significance. This disclaimer is important for the section of audience, full of enthu cutlets, who are looking forward to the film for its rebellious nature.
It is equally necessary for the section who are planning to watch the film in the hopes of getting titillated. Most importantly, it is imperative for the large section of audience who will choose not to watch the film in order to avoid cringing, and will end up missing out on a piece of intelligent cinema.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is not high on decibel. It is more of a whisper that a woman passes on to another as an act of solidarity against a patriarchal society which can chain their bodies but never their thoughts, desires and dreams.