Lipstick under my Burkha: The bold and the beautiful
By Shillpi A Singh | Express News Service | Published: 22nd July 2017 10:00 PM |
Konkona Sen Sharma made her directorial debut with A Death in the Gunj this year, and she’s back with a compelling role in Alankrita Shrivastava’s debut film Lipstick Under My Burkha. Konkona won an award for both—best director for A Death in the Gunj and best actor for Lipstick Under My Burka at the 2017 New York Indian Film Festival. This was Lipstick Under My Burkha’s one among 11 global awards it has won apart from earning the ire of the Censor Board for its ‘lady-oriented’ theme.
If Konkona’s directorial debut was a drama thriller, in Lipstick... she plays Shireen Aslam, a Muslim woman in her 30s who has a complicated marriage and three children. She comes from a lower middle-class conservative family in Bhopal. “All characters were well-etched out, delineated beautifully, realistically and honestly,” says Konkona about the film, which was denied a censor certificate initially.
A lipstick and a burkha aren’t an unlikely combination, but for Shireen and three other women in the film, they form the metaphors of colourful dreams and desires that are veiled but can’t be suppressed. “It’s a metaphoric title.
Women have a pulsating desire to be free; they have their vivid ambition and passion. We may think that they are okay to exist within the boxes created by a patriarchal social order, but that’s not true. Women will never stop dreaming, and their desires cannot be stifled,” says Alankrita. “More films should be lady-oriented. The term has developed a wonderful and positive connotation—feminist with a female gaze, speaking of the female experience, providing a female insight, female-oriented, sensitive to women, and other such themes.”
The film is a kaleidoscopic look at the secret lives of four ordinary women whose roles are essayed by Konkona, Ratna Pathak Shah, and newcomers Ahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur. It traces their journey in pursuit of freedom, uninhibited, unrestricted and uninterrupted, with truckloads of courage and rebellion against the patriarchal norms.
“We don’t get to see such stories with a woman at the centre, a woman in her 30s with children or a woman in her 50s, her sexual awakening, or younger women who take charge of their sexuality. Such stories do exist, and Lipstick… is an attempt to show such unknown, unseen and unheard tales,” says Konkona.
“The film questions the way in which women are perceived and how they perceive themselves. If the film is a battle against patriarchy, then it’s also about overcoming fears. My character dares to take swimming lesson at her age, unafraid and unabashed to try something new,” says Ratna.
The actors have been part of the #lipstickrebellion on Twitter. “We’ve been watching films from a male perspective till now. There cannot be just one perspective on anything, so a female gaze is important,” adds Konkona. More than sexual revolution, the film deals with gender discrimination. “It cuts across nationality, caste, class and age. Women have always been told about what they should wear and how they should behave. That is what we share in common with these four characters,” she explains.
The film is liberating, but not titillating or sensational, according to Ratna, who plays a 55-year-old widow out to explore her secret desires. Ahana, who is a two-timing beautician in the film, says, “I was wary of my mother’s reaction, but she loved everything about the film. It was a great affirmation for the kind of cinema that Lipstick... belongs to and the message it wants to send across.”
Plabita plays a burkha-clad college student who tries to grab her share of freedom. She says, “Desires of ordinary women are colourful like the lipstick, but often hidden for fear of backlash from society and men. It’s good to rebel for a cause.”
The film is distributed by Ekta Kapoor and also stars Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey, Shashank Arora and Vaibhav Tatwawaadi.