Lipstick Under My Burkha is a good attempt to start a conversation around women’s sexual freedom. The film is a story of four women living in the same building and dealing with shades of one crisis — trying to be vocal about what they want in their lives. While this Alankrita Srivastava directorial has gained limelight due to its tiff with Censor Board, the theme had created a lot of expectations. But, does Lipstick Under My Burkha live up to it? Will the film manage to trigger a conversation about gender equality?
The story of Lipstick Under My Burkha has four different women, fighting on a daily basis to live their lives on their own terms. They do not have a say on any aspect of their lives – from how they want to look, to what they wear, to even how should they speak in front of people. They are well aware of their rights. They also want to change their lives. But it is far from easy. Parents’ expectations, husband’s irrational fears, and self-doubts are some of the things that keep them trapped.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is not just a content driven film but also a performance oriented one. The presence of Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkona Sen Sharma already promised a good film. The other two actresses — Ahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur also came as a lovely surprise. They are strong, powerful women who justify their roles in every bit of the film — with or without dialogues. I still cannot get over this particular scene where Shireen, played by Konkona, decides to finally speak up for herself. There are no dialogues. Shireen bakes a cake for her husband and then eats it herself. It might sound simple. But, when Konkona Sen Sharma eats that cake, there’s an anger on her face, the anger that reflects years of being trapped in an unhappy marriage where you have no say at all… no say about when you want to have sex with your husband. No right over your own body. You are just a piece of meat. Your husband treats you like a pet. Your own ambitions, your desires, your passion have no meaning for the so called husband.
What’s good and what’s not
The film has some strong performances but many open ended moments where the audience is asked to invest his or her emotions and wit. I have a problem with this kind of treatment in a mainstream Bollywood movie. I do understand that Alankrita Srivastava has tried to push the envelope but then asking our Bollywood audience to think too much is… too much. Coming to the part Pahlaj Nahlani loved the most, sex scenes. Honestly, it is just too much of it. And seems very fake. While I salute the film maker’s decision to take up such a brave topic, these sex scenes seem to have been inserted into the film just to create some noise. However, one scene where a middle aged woman is sitting naked, as part of her job, to let artists sketch her, is probably one of the best moments in the film.
What goes against Lipstick Under My Burkha is too many expectations. It had promised a lot more than what it has delivered. I am not saying it is a bad film but it doesn’t have that lingering feeling once you step out of the theatre. While you are watching, you relate to a few scenes, but the number of such scenes is really less. For me, the real hero the film is Ratna Pathak Shah who essays the role of bua ji, an old woman who dares to talk about her sexual desires and fantasies. And that’s something no other Hindi film has been able to convey so far.
To watch it or not
I know there has been a lot of hype around Lipstick Under My Burkha. I also know that many critics have praised the film. But let me stick my neck out and say Lipstick Under My Burkha has little or less entertainment value. Yes, it is a good film. Yes, it has some exceptional performances. But, it lacks quirk. However, only because there’s a dire need to have an experimental cinema, and we need more films from female perspectives, there’s no way you should miss Lipstick Under My Burkha.
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