Lipstick​ in demand

Review of Lipstick Under My Burkha

Cast: Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur

Director: Alankrita Shrivastava

Duration: 2 hours 12 minutes

Lipstick Under My Burkha reflects our patriarchal society where women are a mere puppet in the hands of the men. It not only brings out the issue of domestic violence and marital rape, but also unveils the sexual desires of a woman which is simply not accepted by the Indian society. Director Alankrita Srivastava tries to bring out the story of four women from Bhopal who are trying to break out of their shell that the society has imposed on them.

Addressed as ‘Buaji’, 55-year-old widow Usha Parmar (Ratna Pathak) contrary to her age deeds, reads erotic novel ‘Lipstick vale Sapne’ and disguises her concupiscence in Rosy, her imaginary self while fantasizing about young swimming trainer. Konkana Sen Sharma playing Shireen’s character oscillates between being a top saleswoman of her company and on the other hand being a sex and semen dumping machine for her husband. Leela (Aahana Kumra) is dwindling between her photographer lover and an ideal man with whom her marriage was fixed as well as between her beauty parlor and business idea. Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) who cherishes Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and reveres Miley Cyrus is confined in her Burkha and her father’s Burkha stitching shop. She tries to rebel for her freedom of clothes, dancing, and singing. She opted to steal for her freedom which though a crime but is just a regressive act to fit herself in the society.

The narration of imaginary character Rosy and her sexual desires becomes the underlying voice for not just the four women of the film, but also for every woman who dreams of being loved, appreciated and heard. Lipstick metaphorically gives hope to such women to speak out and think big.

Though living in the same building called Hawai Manzil, their stories are loosely tied to each other. Yet the viewers can sense the interrelationship they have through connecting shots and as they try to be a support for each other.  Shireen helps Buaji buy a swimming costume, Leela talks to Shireen about her abusive husband and in the end, four of them share a laugh over women’s fantasies. Though the audience expects the answers to their lives, the open ending gives the society a chance to ponder over the harsh reality of the society which the women silently endure.

The effortless acting by the women cast adds more conviction to the depictions of the Indian women. Also, the male characters like Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey and Shashank Arora are almost dominating and insensitive, thereby perpetuating the popular feminist stereotype of men. The characters, dialogues and art-setting with bright shades and pop-art brought to reality the small town ambiance and the true colors of lipstick. The graceful narration and bold script with sympathetic gestures made it a perfect package. The humor is witty and laced with the right dose of sarcasm and pun.

The ‘too lady-oriented’ film which was earlier banned by Central Board for Film Certification and its head Pahlaj Nilhani has made 26.2 Crores INR at the box office garnering 7 international awards. After a lot of controversies, the film made it to the Indian screens and now is set to be screened in the US.

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Around Us, But Unnoticed

We leave our families to make our future; they leave theirs to make our lives.

Preoccupied with college and hostel life, students usually miss to recognize a major hand that helps them settle in this green campus. From cleaning their rooms and classes, to cooking and serving them, everything here is maintained by the 400 non-teaching staff who have selflessly dedicated their time for us. We left our parents and hometown behind for our own good, but they are away from their families for us, to make us comfortable.

Such is the story of Balak Ram. He is one of the scores of workers that landed onto the campus, from Lucknow, U.P. Three years ago, financial duress got the 50-year-old here on the hills to feed the students, leaving his wife and four kids behind. The irony of his life is he sees thousands of faces everyday and keeps himself busy serving them, only to earn to feed his family back at home. He reveals that he hasn’t been home in the whole of these 3 years. But he is optimistic about seeing his family during Diwali this year.

Balak Ram may not have seen his children in some time but he has found his kids and happiness here.  On asking him  what he loves the most about his job, he shyly responded, “Everything’s fine, but there is quite nothing as lovely watching you young kids growing up in front of my eyes.”

There is another much-known face at the mess who collects the used plates and greets you with a  smile. He is Chattu Kumar from Motihari, Bihar who instantly makes one realize that no job on this earth is low. He gracefully does his job, without cribbing about anything.

He was the owner and proprietor of a small business in fisheries. While he toiled to support himself and his family consisting of two brothers, he choseto not get married for the sake of work. Still, he has no complaints from life. Chattu ji claims to have travelled all over the country, Rajasthan, Assam, Shimla, Punjab, even in proximity to the Pakistan border, in search of work and here he is on the hills, cleaning mess in the mess, but still happy.

On questioning, if he missed out on anything in life, one would assume his answer would be a companion. But instead, he said “I wanted to study. I have watched all the serials based on Holy Scriptures and epics. I know them by heart. But I just wanted to read them. That’s all.” He sacrificed his studies for his brothers, and then a life partner for work, and his work is taking care of us. There is pride when he says,” All ex-students know me. They come and see me whenever they’re here.” Even if we may have the education he’s missed, Chattu ji has the marvelous wisdom that we may never have despite an education.

As we step out of the mess, we see the ATM counter, but miss the one stationed outside. Sanjay Jadhav, the ATM security guard is a picture of trustworthiness. The depths of his efficiency can be proved as he never takes any days off. His working hours start from Monday onwards and are stretched to Sunday.

Jadhav ji has been working for the Symbiosis University since 2010, but as security personnel only since the past couple of years. His left arm has been affected by Polio since childhood and that made him miss out on jobs earlier. But he is grateful to the college. They have provided him with a comfortable job and he has the rare good fortune of living together with his family that he recognizes a lot of his fellow employees don’t have. His wife, Savita is one among the housekeeping team on campus. Life is serene and he cannot seem to think of anything more to ask for. The sense of calm functionality that he emanates, we need to learn this art from him.

Bajirao, the 55-year old admin helper has been working in SIMC since past 9 years. What keeps him coming to the hills is the climate and college. It is adorable see him communicate in English and give lessons to everyone. One of his lessons is, “No knowledge without college; and no college without knowledge”.

Though they are collectively called the non-teaching staff, yet they teach us a lot many things. From being humble to hardworking, they have selflessly devoted their time for us. They are no less than parents who feed us when we are hungry and clean our messy rooms. Yet they are left unnoticed. We just acknowledge them as bhaiya and didi, unknowingly erasing their identities. So let’s just thank them whenever we cross them, and indulge in little conversations to know more about their lives.

(Inputs by- Poulomi Chatterjee, Vidhyalakshmi Balasubramaniam)