Will Indians accept ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’?

Review: One hopes moviegoers will look at the film as a chance to see all facets of women, celebrate the movie’s uniqueness, and debate issues it raises.

On July 21st, Lipstick Under My Burkha will finally be released in India. This film, is a collection of four women’s (all live in the same complex) stories but is anything but a conventional Indian film.

The film takes place in Bhopal and features Ratna Pathak Shah (Usha), Konkona Sensharma (Shireen), Aahana Kumra (Leela), Plabita Borthakur (Rihana), Vikrant Massey, Sushant Singh, Shashank Arora, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi, and Jagat Singh Solanki.

Shireen has a controlling, abusive, cheating husband who uses her solely for her body despite the physical damage it causes. He also tries to control her workplace endeavors. Leela uses her “womanly wiles” to enjoy sex and her youth despite using a man she loves. Rihana is Muslim girl who wears a burkha around her family but leads a double life where she wears jeans to school, dances to Miley Cyrus, and parties like a teen her age. Usha is the grandmother of the group who finds her sexual desires very much alive despite being older.

Lipstick Under My Burkha was initially set to release in January, however the Central Board of Film Certification refused to allow it to be shown because the “story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contagious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography, and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society.”

Now we have to stop there before this review continues. Let’s re-read that first bit of the rationale for censorship… “the story is lady oriented…” Um what? That reasoning could not be more misogynistic, I don’t there has ever been the same rationale given to all the films that feature strong male leads. Thank God that the film is allowed to be shown, but we’ll be back to the rest of the censorship board’s rationale soon.

The film was directed by Alankrita Shrivastava who has attended several premieres of the film. At the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles, Shrivastava said she felt it was critical to address the issues women in India face until things change for women for the better. She also said women’s sexuality has long been repressed because it makes men uncomfortable, but she wanted to make a film that addressed each of those issues and gave women a voice.

As someone who has seen the movie, you cannot describe it as pornography. In fact, most Bollywood films contain musical numbers and songs that reveal more skin, thrusting, sexual situations, and lust than you would even find in the film.

What you do find is the honest truth that women are so much more that mothers, daughters, grandmothers, wives, and sisters. They are humans with dreams, goals, desires (sexual) too, and that’s okay. Each of them women in the film, love their culture and families but they also have goals separate lives which are more than okay.

Usha, a grandmother shy to wear a bathing suit, with quieted sexual desires is easily one of the most lovable characters in the film as she shows that it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you have been, or what has happened in your life, you can still be alive.

Several male audience-goers in Los Angeles, thanked Shrivastava for making the film and for making something that finally honestly addressed tough to talk about issues in India. If nothing else, Lipstick Under My Burkha is an invitation to have these discussions that can only make India better.

When the film opens tomorrow, my hope for Indians be they Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, etc. is that they look at the film as a chance to see all facets of women, celebrate the uniqueness of the film, and allow for discussions towards progress be made.


Lipstick Under My Burkha trailer slams CBFC in the boldest way (June 28, 2017)

Lipstick Under My Burkha, ‘You Are My Sunday’ to screen at New York Indian Film Festival (March 16, 2017)

Lipstick Under My Burkha to open Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2017 (March 8, 2017)

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