Lipstick Under My Burkha is an important movie, just like Pink from last year. Just like schools have recommended readings, this is a film which should be a recommended watch for everyone, especially India. It portrays how the peace of most Indian houses is founded upon the burial of desires of Indian women.
Most Indian women have desires which they could not fulfil when they wanted to, or usually before marriage (Because marriage in India has a lot of complications for the women, such as a wife going back to her parent’s house is “Something wrong has happened in the household.”) But then again, desires are never truly finished. They can crop up at any age and stage. Desires aren’t bound.
But above all, women are restrained, physically, emotionally and sexually, and they aren’t allowed to live their life completely. A part of them must always be secretive, scared, afraid, constantly aware and second guessing for wanting to fulfil their desires.
Desires can be simple as well as complex. Hey can be something as simple as living a life wearing jeans and modern clothing rather than a Burkha; or having a sexual relationship at the age of 55. It can be something as forbidden as having a job, or as fundamental as wanting to leave a place behind and go away from it. However, fulfilling these desires is out of bounds, and getting caught has consequences. Not those movie consequences, where everything becomes alright and people make up. There are real world implications; places from where people can never come back from, and decisions which can never be reversed.
What makes Lipstick so important is that it shows four real non-sexualised non-caricatured in the real world without sugar-coating of any sort. It shows how women have desires; how many times these desires are the cause for conflict. How these desires make the remaining qualities of a woman immaterial, and it makes them unbecoming of a woman and shameless (Because women are always supposed to have shame. Men, not so much. They can be, and are usually forgiven on account of it being okay for men to be shameless.) Even the act of buying a condom for safe sex is a shameless act for a woman.
Lipstick follows four different women but closely related women in their lives. Usha Bhuaji (Ratna Pathak Shah), a 55 year old woman who rediscovers her sexuality. Rihana Abidi (Plabita Borthakur), a Muslim college going girl who wants more than the confines of her Burkha and parents. Shireen Aslam (Konkana Sen Sharma), a saleswoman who has troubles at home. Leela (Aahana Kumar), a girl who dreams of getting away from the confines of Bhopal. All of these women live in the Hawai Mahal, of which Bhuaji is the owner and the rest are tenants. (I’m forgetting the correct name. Apologies).
All four women are organic and their stories are relatable. They aren’t the stories of some obscure origin. Most people will be able to relate to them. They are powerful and moving, but most of all, they are true.
There are so many scenes in the film which portray how austere the oppression of women is. In one scene, Rihana dancing with no care in the world is deemed blasphemous enough by her parents to lock her in her room. In her room, Rihanna has a secret life where she idolises Miley Cyrus (Now, where have I ALSO seen a double life, lol).
Lipstick is a film about women, and it shows them as humans, rather than as perfect beings who are always right and without flaws and vices. The women in Lipstick are often on the wrong side of things, do things which are condemnable and vengeful. But we are not here to judge these women. We are here to simply peer into their lives and see the kind of restrictions they fight against on a daily basis. In addition, the prices these women pay for their desires are far greater than those paid by men. So we truly, have no right to judge them. We must simply accept them to be as flawed as men.
Alankrita Shrivastava, writer and director of Lipstick does a magnificent job in capturing the things which signify how women are oppressed. There are things which even I had no idea about. There is also the thing of how women in their quest for desire are also afraid of other women ratting them out.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is one of the most powerful movies of this year. Period. Nothing anyone says or does can take this away from Lipstick. If you haven’t watched this film, do it. If you are planning to, great. If you’re not, change it. If you think this movie is a sex-fest, it’s not. If you think this is a movie about empowering women or feminism, it’s not. If you’ve watched this movie, you’ve already felt its impact. If you’ve watched this movie and think it’s stupid or senseless, change your thinking.