‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’- will the burkha unveil?

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has stalled the release of the film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ by declining to certify it. The reasons cited are that the film is ‘female-oriented’, has ‘sexual scenes’ and ‘abusive words’, among others.

‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha. This film, starring Konkana Sen Sharma and Ratna Pathak Shah, is a kaleidoscopic narration of the secret lives of four women of different age groups in a small town in India. This film chronicles their search for liberation pertaining to different forms. This story encapsulates the lives of a college student who dons a burkha, a young beautician, a senior age woman who rediscovers her sex life after the demise of her husband and a woman who is tired of being a human machine to bear babies and seeks something better out of her life.

CBFC’s letter to the film’s producer states that:” The story is lady oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused.”

‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ has won the Oxfam Award for Best film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival, the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the ScotRail Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival. It will also be screened at the Miami Film Festival. It is in the international competition of only eight features at the International Women’s Film Festival at Creteil, Paris, France.

The timing of the Scot Rail Audience Award couldn’t have been better as it has been bestowed upon it, post the rejection of certificate from CBFC to exhibit in India. It is ironic that a film that has won such coveted awards in prestigious film festivals around the world and has been critically acclaimed is being denied certification by its own country’s censor board.

The fact that the film has been appreciated across several international film festivals is an affirmation of the relevance of the film globally. A nod from such esteemed film festivals strongly reflect on the substance of the film. A rejection of such critically acclaimed film by the CBFC insults the intelligence of the Indian audience.

Is the patriarchal form of society we are living in responsible for this action? This is a feminist film, audacious in gloriously presenting Indian women in all their sensuality, complexity and sexuality. This is a film that explores women beyond the usual stereotypes as depicted in Bollywood films.

Alankrita Shrivastava, the director of the film, states that,” The real issue is the systematic suppression of women’s voices and the throttling of freedom of expression. In a country, where there is so much discrimination against women, so much violence against women, isn’t it essential to listen to women’s stories from their point of view?”

It appears that the Board has been overzealous in the enactment of its role. Earlier, it had blocked the release of a toned-down version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and had deemed two James Bond kissing scenes unsuitable for an Indian audience. They had also expected unnecessary cuts in the Oscar-winning ‘Moonlight’ before they gave it a certification.

The CBFC can always propose cuts in the films, explaining its reasons for the same, however a complete ban on the film’s release is a different ball game altogether. The CBFC’s decision has drawn flak from several celebrities.

The verdict issued by CBFC appears gratuitous, as the grounds on which this film has been denied certification seem inexplicable to the logical minds. Let’s hope that the censor board will re-consider its decision, so that the Indian audience is not disappointed.

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