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Women swallow their dreams and are forced to forget their very names – Lipstick Under My Burkha portrays all of this unflinchingly. Go watch!
Two ‘L’s? Lives & Lipsticks. Two ‘R’s? Repression & rebellion. And through these wide spectrums sits the frank yet layered, jolting, Lipstick Under My Burkha. It feels like a bird desperate to soar, forced inside a cage, that women rattle with their attempts. The suffocation of women forced to hide their desires, success, achievements and dreams, is palpable. We are forced to forget our names, forced to swallow our dreams. Men force themselves on us, in us in every way, and Lipstick Under My Burkha – this sensitive film, portrays it all. Unadulterated.
As I walked out of the theatre, absorbed in the many truths of the film, it irked me to hear the conversations I was surrounded by. Young 30, just-married couples in a mall in Gurgaon, were aghast at the ‘explicitness’. 50 year olds were stepping out unnerved by the liberation. Men jeered at the women on screen. Why? When will we direct our anger at the things we must be angry about? That women are forced to lead two lives – one they must because of patriarchy, and the other they lead because they wish to! Why aren’t we angry at the ease with which men control us, and the ease with which they walk away at their convenience? Why aren’t we aghast at the force, the mechanical way a man chooses to use a woman’s body? Why don’t these things irk us? Why can’t we still look at truth in the eye? Why?
Lipstick Under My Burkha looks it in the eye with bravery that seems to be returning to Hindi cinema. It minces no words, and neither does it preach. What it does, effectively, is showing us the truth, and leaves it to us to decide whether what is happening, is what needs to continue. It finds its stories in conventionally unassuming places with everyday people; it weaves stories that are so relatable, that each of us somewhere have been each one of these women.
Forced to hide our identities, or just habituated to seeking respect, snatching the ability to make choices, and roaring to be heard. All four ladies fill their layered characters with conviction that evokes empathy. Ratna Pathak Shah specifically balances her character of a matriarch in a home steadily wearing away, a woman relegated and expected to lead life as a provider, pedestalised for her age, yet holding her sexual desires dear. She is endearing, believable, and reminds us why we have missed her so much, all these years.
The men are impactful, but incidental to the film. They represent the patriarchy we all fight, and reveal the varied ugly heads in each story. Tight editing balances the stories and the overall narrative extremely well. The film is all too real, and retains its pace, and that quality all through. And it leaves us with hope.
So, women, let’s keep fighting. Every battle. Personal. Political. And everything in between. With a dash of lipstick.
Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles
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