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.