Monday, July 24, 2017

Why should you watch Lipstick under my Burkha?

I usually don't make advance bookings for a movie, but this one was tempting. The kick-ass poster might have attracted many like me, a middle finger salutation on a feminine movie poster is hard to resist. 
I saw a few men inside the theatre, some accompanying their wives and girlfriends, others on their own. Curiosity brought them there. Perhaps some were present in the cinema hall, to make fun of a woman director who decided to walk the talk, and show the mirror to patriarchy.

Cast: Ratna Pathak Shah
Konkona Sen Sharma
Ahana Kumra
Plabita Borthakur
Vikrant Massey
Sushant Singh Rajput

Director: Alankrita Shrivastava

Running time: 2 hours 12 minutes

The movie talks about the lives of four women who are neighbours, and living in a small town in India. To rebel is a way of life for them, and these big and small acts of mutiny where they stand up for themselves is the unique selling point in the movie. Each woman is standing at a threshold of life, that is distinctive from the situation of the other woman. For example there is the college goer Rehana who is a die-hard fan of Miley Cyrus and is struggling to shun the burkha that her parents have used to camouflage her body and her dreams that revolve around becoming a singer. Or the mother of three children Shireen, played by Konkona Sen Sharma who has swallowed the atrocities that her dominant and perverted husband unveils on her everyday, without uttering a word. Else, take the example of Leela who is trying to establish a new business with her muslim boyfriend, oblivious of her fiance of her mother who is trying to pay off the debts her father left them with after his death. Then there is buaji the matriarch, who is the co-owner of  an ancient building in the heart of the city and a sweet shop. She feeds her sexual fantasies by indulging in sleazy novels.  
Each character has to put up with a lot to breathe in their sacred space, yet their willingness to listen to the voice of  their soul makes them special.

Spoilers ahead
Scenes where Shireen is raped every night on bed, and at the drop of a hat she is forced to pop a pill to avoid pregnancy to her dominating husband throwing away the condom to have sex with her make you cringe. This is the story of thousands of women in India who silently accept marital rape as their fate.
Buaji's battle to suppress her sexual needs within the pages of sleazy novels makes you rethink about how we have ignored elderly women and their sexual desires and why they are forced to hide behind the mask of traditions and religion, in this case buaji being a regular at the satsangs.
Leela's struggle to keep her hopes of  setting up a business alive to the way she is shown being torn between her fiance and boyfriend is the portrayal of a young women of India trying to shun marriage and putting up a brave front to let their dreams of a career live. 
The young college goer Rehana has very few dialogues but manages to impress with her silent yet powerful expressions particularly the acts where she tries to don western outfits to the reality locking horns with her dreams of pursuing a singing career.

It talks about most sexist issues that plague the society and have been created to maintain a patriarchal hierarchy where the man stands at the pinnacle. It addresses the worries that Western clothing has created for a sanskaari society like ours, to the choices a woman wants to make in a relationship, to reasserting the importance of financial freedom, the reality of marital rape, the lack of reproductive rights and the ignorance women suffer from when it comes to the rights about their body. Lastly but not the least, it talks of sexual freedom and agency which is an issue that is often brushed under the carpet. I liked the way the director tried to make this the central theme.
Some incidents will remind us of the times we decided to be rebellious and felt proud of ourselves for having done that.

Spoilers again!
The scenes where Rehana was shown as a shoplifter seems to be have been put in the movie without giving a valid explanation for why she had to do so. It was hard to digest why Leela chose her engagement venue to have sex with her boyfriend and film it. Wasn't it a stupid move or was she trying to assert her sexual priority. The moment when all the four women huddled in a crammed room share a cigarette was symbolic and constricts feminism as an idea which is fighting for the rights of women to smoke or drink, which it is not.

With a climax that is open ended it has left the viewer asking for more. But the best moment in the movie, was the ending itself which was shown to be a precious moment of self-realization and self-introspection. Although female bonding doesn't need harmful symbols like cigarettes. 
I also liked the way in which the female protagonists were portrayed as real breathing women, and not objectified to make the movie glitzy.
Go watch, if you digress the "running around the trees" kind of movies or movies shot in aesthetically pleasing locations to make it dreamy and unreal.

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