On a mundane Tuesday evening, my colleagues and I were trying to wrap our heads around a senseless corporate meeting that we had attended a few minutes back. Corporate meetings are like sugarcane juicers that put you in a grueling process and leave you low & dry. Drained off all our energies, we turned to the only good thing that the office has to offer (apart from salaries of course), the ‘chai’. As we were refilling ourselves, someone broke the news, “Arre Lipstick Under My Burkha ka trailer dekha kya?” And, we dug our eyes in our respective desktops. The trailer was something that lit up the darkest corners of our thought process and even the desks that were painted in a monotone beige colour, now stood colour corrected.

The trailer was pacey, unapologetic and fierce in its approach. Finally, a ladies’ movie that locked horns with the Censor Board, came out victoriously and was looking at a theatrical release.

Now, with less than a week to the film’s release, people are waiting with bated breath to witness the story of four women, crafted by the courageous director Alankrita Shrivastava and, one can easily say that it’ll garner enough love from the audience. But, in a crucial time between the film’s release and awareness creation around it, let’s look at a few things that the film has taught us even before the release.

CBFC as a mirror of the patriarchal world

CBFC refused to certify the film citing reasons that it is ‘lady-oriented, their fantasy about life’

Nobody noticed the film initially, rather ignored it just like women’s rights. But, our beloved CBFC came to the film’s rescue. The self-righteous Censor Board of Film Certification in India denied the film a theatrical release citing reasons like it harps too much on the desires of women and wild fantasies that can prove fatal to Indian culture, a culture that has systematically placed men at the centre of pretty much everything and women are left to revolve around them. Yes, it will prove fatal to a lot of things like ages of suppression, bigotry, gender bias and a plethora of other things that constitute this very culture. It will stir you up to the point where it starts making you uncomfortable and will raise questions in your cosmos. Soon, you will realize that the Censor Board is nothing but a reflection of this world that we live in. Lipstick Under My Burkha won many accolades across multiple film festivals but ironically was panned by the bureaucratic set up in its homeland. A woman may well head an entire team of qualified professionals but, in her own house, she is considered just a little more than a homemaker. Rings a bell?

In fact, CBFC is just like the authority that derives pleasure out of cornering those who are vulnerable and, Lipstick Under My Burkha is nothing less than the anti-fascista that fought this system with all its power. Even the tear gas canisters fired by the authority in the form of shaming and emotional blackmail couldn’t deter the film and its makers. They chose to stand by their creation and their belief in it. The idea of fighting fascism is a revolution and so, is the demand for equal rights.

A two – film old director’s unfazed courage

Director Alankrita Shrivastava

Director Alankrita Shrivastava

Alankrita Shrivastava, who earlier directed the 2011 romantic drama Turning 30!!!, returns to direction after 6 years with what seems to be an engaging story of four women. She has managed to bring all the four leads on one operation table of liberation and has successfully plucked off the coagulated blood with forceps in order to flush out the pus cells of fear; something that even seasoned directors are wary of doing. However, has she managed to execute it well with finesse? Only time will tell. But for now, Shrivastava must be praised for her audacity towards telling her choice of stories and also to put up a brave battle against the abysmal system.

Exploring & portraying female desires and sexuality

Ratna Pathak Shah

Ratna Pathak Shah in a still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

The best part about a human life is having feelings and desires, the two things that set us apart from every other living entity on this planet and drive us towards change & betterment. And desires do come in different forms and parts, of which the desire to procreate is the most important yet pronounced in whispers and lip syncs. In India, the lines between privacy and shyness are blurred to the point where it generates a trippy fractal pattern triggered by the very thought of ‘what will people or society think?’ And when it comes to women, the matter turns worse. In our society, women are expected and can easily be found on the backseat of the pleasure drive. They are expected to hand over the keys to the other person, sit back and watch the plantations & sceneries pass by. Lipstick… slams the disc brakes on this decrepit idea of joy ride. It gives women the control to steer into completely unexplored avenues, experiment with the accelerator and also to experience bumpy rides. The film seems to portray female sexuality in a way that hasn’t been touched so far by Indian cinema. It may well emerge as the game changer for freewheeling style of storytelling.

In your face promotional strategy

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Lipstick Under My Burkha | New Poster

With the denying of a theatrical release, the makers turned the weakness into their strength and they retorted to bashing CBFC, by bringing out its double standards. They came up with unique promotional strategies and are pretty much all over the place. A lipstick that assumes the middle finger, garish colours that stain the XYY hyper-male chromosomal anomaly of the society and the punch-line, “It takes X to be a woman”, are the working components of marketing machinery that have achieved their target of making a dent in the daily routine of our lives. People have not just taken notice of the movie but are also rallying behind it.

For the longest time, we have suppressed a long list of living species and nature. The developments over Lipstick Under My Burkha hint at the subtle message of ‘Live and let live’. It’s better to let the Lipstick breathe open and spread colours because a capped one can prove to be a dangerous weapon.

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