So what’s all the hullabaloo about?
The story of ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’ revolves around four women, each fighting their own battles against age old social stigma that governs this patriarchal society. Their wants are simple. They want their right to freedom. They want to live the life they want, the freedom to do what they desire without being fettered by the shackles of expectations that come with the XX chromosome. The narrative questions the practice of giving authority to the men to decide what their wife or girlfriend or daughter or buaji (paternal aunt, a motherly figure) should do. Why are women still being shunned by the man in the house (or in their lives) for their fantasies and desires? Why is the daughter reared to be married? Why is the wife treated as an object or a doormat?
The movie has already bagged eleven international awards prior to its release. It was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival and also the Tokyo Film Festival, where it won the Oxfam Award for Best Film in Gender Equality as well as the Spirit of Asia Prize respectively. Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, this movie was released in India on the 21st of July after a lot of fight against the Central Board of Film Certification. The colorful lipstick rebellion campaign which was launched as a protest grabbed a lot of eyeballs on social media. Not only did the four protagonists of the movie put their foot down and raise their fingers against this injustice, but also did they receive tremendous support from other actresses who believe in woman empowerment.
A mask, sometimes in the form of a burkha, sometimes in the form of an aanchal or sometimes an invisible piece of fabric is used by most women to hide their troubles, pain, woes and even fantasies. This mask has nothing to do with region or religion, nothing to do with age or ethnicity. This mask is a result of the continuous oppression they have faced with time and urges them to rebel. And so they do, but hide it in the fear of accepted taboos and social norms. Alankrita Shrivastava has highlighted these social issues with a bold red color lipstick. And it was this boldness that had stirred the censor board.
The crux of the movie is the issues women in our country still face.
- No consideration being given to what the woman wants – the man of the house is the decision maker.
- And of course, there is this imaginary rule book which mentions details on how you need to sit, stand, walk on the road, dance in a wedding, behave! Blah! blah!!
- A woman cannot choose her attire! Come out of the stone age, will you?
- The education given to a woman is namesake, she is expected to help in household chores or in earning that extra buck. The degree is just a criterion for finding the most eligible boy in the community.
- The woman CANNOT choose whom she wishes to marry. Well, the worst part is that the women who have got away with this one obstacle, have few more boulders being hurdled their way because the mother-in-law may not approve of a woman who has chosen her own husband. Sigh!
- A woman needs to seek permission from her husband to go to work. How preposterous! But yes, very relevant even among the educated lot.
- The woman being treated only as an object to give pleasure. Her wants and desires have zero value. Most of these complaints remain confined behind the closed bedroom doors.
- A woman cannot express her desires. It is a shame! Pun intended.
- The woman has the sole responsibility of bringing up the child more often than not. It is not the husband’s responsibility to take care of the daily rituals. Says who?
- A widow cannot re-marry. But of course, the widower can! I thought sati was abolished for a reason – the woman had the right to live, and not count days of sheer existence.
This movie brings out a can of worms which exist in the world’s largest democracy. The so called ‘fundamental rights’ – Right to Equality and Right to Freedom seem to be mere page-fillers in the Indian Constitution.
Oh so-called-educated men in our society! When will you accept the fact that women are as human as you? May be not as physically strong, but women can equal your wits. Women have a mind of their own which can think as well. They want to choose the express their opinions, have a say on when and whom to marry. They want to be ready to have a child because it is a life-long responsibility before being forced into it, decide how many children and say NO when they have had enough.They are capable of earning a living, they can fend for themselves. They too have innate desires. They do not announce their feelings, but that does not mean they are incapable of feeling.
Can the Swacch Bharath Abhiyaan cleanse the mindset of the people?
The satire mocks the ‘system in place’, especially so in small towns. The story weaves relationship issues and the problems of a common woman which is very much prevalent in today’s society. A striking contrast of characters leaves a lot to ponder. A must watch for those who believe in woman empowerment!
Don’t forget to mention what changes you want to bring in society so that millions of women can fulfill their ‘lipstick wale sapne.’