Film maker battles to show modern Indian women
INDIA: After a protracted battle with India’s censors, a film detailing the lives and dreams of four women facing oppression and violence has finally hit cinema screens, with gender-equality activists hailing it as triumph for freedom of speech.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is the tale of a group of women in the city of Bhopal, central India, who face a daily grind of brutality and prejudice but want more from life.
They take their destinies into their own hands through secret jobs, affairs and dreams of pop stardom.
Alankrita Shrivastava, the film’s writer and director, said: ‘‘I’m glad for myself and for the women of India that it’s coming out, otherwise it would have set a precedent.
‘‘It’s not just about Lipstick being released, but I hope it encourages other film makers to realise that you can make the kind of films you want without fear. We should feel that even if we have to fight it out, then it’s worth it.’’
The film follows Usha Parmar (Ratna Pathak Shah), a middleaged housewife, whose interest in romantic fiction unleashes a dormant eroticism; beautician Leela (Aahana Kumra) and her dalliance with her Muslim boyfriend; student Rehana Abdi (Plabita Borthakur), a Miley Cyrus fan who daydreams of a more fulfilling life than working in her family’s tailor shop, jumping out of her burka as soon as she leaves the house; and Shirin Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma), who offsets her unhappy marriage to her leery husband (Sushant Singh), by becoming a door-to-door saleswoman.
Back in February, India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) called the film ‘‘lady oriented’’ and refused to give it a release certificate.
The CBFC then went further, accusing Shrivastava and the film’s producers of creating a controversy to generate hype. It said: ‘‘The story is lady oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography... hence film refused.’’
Shrivastava countered: ‘‘He said a lot of things against me. He talked about how Indian films travel to international festivals without Indian certification, like he’s the censor for the entire planet. This idea that’s so much sex in the film, it’s just a film! There’s no nudity, there not even a cleavage shot in it.’’
The saga was compounded by the fact that audiences from Tokyo to Glasgow have already seen the film. Bijayalaxmi Nanda, a feminist activist and researcher, who teaches political science at Miranda House, Delhi University, said: ‘‘This aggressive nationalism in India right now has definitely played a part in the censor’s stance.
‘‘It’s like they think India is being mocked, despite the fact what happens in the film is probably very accurate.
‘‘Let’s not kid ourselves that this will change everything but it will certainly add to a public debate, and engagement is important.’’ - Telegraph Group