Women’s Day special: Lipstick Under My Burkha and its enduring battle against patriarchy

And it is in that minute realisation that the film understands and even drives home the point that empowerment doesn’t come easy. In that moment, the audiences along with Usha herself realise how being the universal “Buaji” and catering to the needs of everyone around her, Usha has somewhere lost her own identity. While it means earning a living for one, it means acknowledging one’s sexual desires or not wearing a burkha for another. But why that irked the then CBFC chief even in the slightest completely evades logic. It makes a relevant point without being preachy. Ratna Pathak Shah in a still from Lipstick Under My Burkha. When Pahlaj Nihalani called Lipstick Under My Burkha too ‘lady oriented’ at the time of its release, he was probably right. Shrivastava is able to knit the extraordinary with the ordinary with her every day women characters and their very real life struggles. 2018-03-08T17:40:56+00:00″>
Updated: March 8, 2018 5:40 pm

Lipstick Under My Burkha reiterates how the struggle against patriarchy has to be an enduring one. Lipstick Under My Burkha’s confinement is not associated only with a burkha. There may be nothing so atrocious about these stories on the surface but Shrivastava’s novelty lies in her effortlessly realistic attempt to show what goes on behind closed doors for these women. Shrivastava’s deftness and Shah’s prowess add nuances to a character that could have easily become a caricature of its emotions. Leela (Aahana Kumra) manipulates men with her sensuality but all she actually wants is to just enjoy life. While a conservative Muslim girl dreams of Miley Cyrus and channels her rage through freakishly dancing in her bolted room, another is only an object to satisfy her husband’s libido in her bedroom, (“Biwi ho, shauhar banne ki koshish mat karo”). The unspoken and unattended ‘Lipstick wale sapne’ of womankind find a way to Shrivastava’s celluloid through Rosie. While an engaged woman doesn’t mind asking for sex from her boyfriend even after a fight (“Sex toh karle yaar”), an older woman runs a tap to muffle the moans of her secret desires in the bathroom. For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App
© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd Lipstick Under My Burkha introduces us to four women, each leading a life starkly different from the other, but woven tautly with a unifying undertone of desire. Where instead of a decisive victory, audiences are made to realise that the battle against patriarchy has to be an enduring one. But not even for a moment does Shrivastava’s film feign to be the problem-solving machine that mediocre social dramas usually become in mainstream cinema. It is in this rebellious world that they can be their real selves, that they can be Rosies. Because this Alankrita Shrivastava film could actually be the most woman-oriented film Bollywood has ever seen. The one woman who especially shines in Shrivastava’s narrative has to be Ratna Pathak Shah’s Usha aka Buaaji. There is no doubting the fact that Shrivastava does something utterly unusual with Lipstick Under My Burkha — she finds some massively compelling stories in the most mundane lives of four women in Bhopal. Shireen Ahmed (Konkona Sen Sharma) is shackled by a misogynistic husband who only wants to satisfy his carnal desire but she finds relief in her job as a saleswoman. Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a seemingly asexual 55-year-old ‘bujurg’ for the society, but she pines for sex and enjoys reading eroticas garbed inside religious books. More so, in the secret double lives that these women lead retaliating against the regressive patriarchy of the society. It is evident even in the climactic scene where the women are able to find sisterhood even in the simple act of reading an erotica. What Rosie sees through her window is representative of all that the burkha-clad women realise through the course of their journey in the film. Hence, the Burkha of Lipstick Under My Burkha stands not just for a clothed veil, it is a metaphor for the boundaries set for the women to be ideal, be it by their family or by the patriarchal society. Almost halfway through the film, there comes a scene where a young swimming instructor asks Usha her name and her quick response is “Buaji.” She hesitates a little, takes a moment and then blurts her real name Usha. Just like real life, rebellions are not a definite war but persistent struggles in the world of Lipstick Under My Burkha. It means living life with their own terms. Because through Rosie’s narrative, Lipstick Under My Burkha says a lot without actually putting it in words. Rehana (Plabita Borthankur) is cloaked in her burkha by her orthodox Muslim father, but she dreams of liberation and independence. Which is why even though lipsticks and cigarettes become unwarranted tokens of liberation in Lipstick Under My Burkha, it does not deter its point. But let’s also not forget the fifth woman in the narrative – Rosie, the sexually unbridled character from Usha’s erotica. The furtive parallel world of Lipstick Under My Burkha’s small-town women is a glass house ready to crumble any moment.