Lipstick Under My Burkha
Lipstick Under My Burkha: Fiercely Personal and Unapologetically Bold
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Lipstick Under My Burkha is devoid of preachiness and drenched in boldness. The film might not drastically change the misogynistic outlook of the world but it makes its point fiercely as it dives in deep to give you a personal outlook of these women and their unfathomable thoughts. For this straight-forward approach and devil may care attitude, Lip Stick Under My Burkha deserves your undivided attention.
Set in Bhopal, the film revolves around the lives of Rihanna, Leela, Shireen and Usha. Confined to societal norms, these four women are forced to hide their deepest desires and largest dreams behind a veil.
Rihanna hides her wild personality behind the drapes of her burkha, she longs for the kind of liberation that can fetch her independence to truly be herself. Leela, a beautician uses men to break free of the shackles of her small town. Through them, she tells herself that she’s seeing the world. Shireen seeks relies on her career for relief when her personal life takes a mechanical route and Usha, deemed a sexually-drained widow finds fulfillment through a newly discovered telephonic romance. The eventual rebellion of these women and the consequences the society thrusts on them, form the core of this plot.
To claim age is just a number is one thing but to actually believe it is another. Belonging to a society that dismisses the desires of women beyond a certain age, it is a relief to see director Alankrita Shrivastava bringing to the table, Usha’s sexual desires in a frank and earnest manner. In fact, the way it truthfully covers the unfathomable desires of the other three women dismiss the inequality in societal perception.
The film doesn’t venture into unexplored territory. The emotions these women bare are thoughts that women have been bearing for centuries. The problem is women hardly get to express these thoughts due to societal judgment. But in Lipstick Under My Burkha, the director teaches her characters to not only express through hard-hitting metaphors but to also express themselves in a literal and straight-forward manner.
In the film, Burkha is used as metaphor to express the confinement and restrictions women face on a daily basis. There are many such symbols in the film that convey the same. For instance, the red-lipstick reveals suppressed rage, pain, manipulation, fear, insults and many such dreadful feelings women constantly have to deal with. The director demonstrates immense clarity through such symbolism.
The film isn’t entirely without faults either, but when you glance at the bigger picture, these flaws seem overlookable. Shirin’s introduction and the dealing of her character’s life in itself hold a lot of plot-holes. The trashy mills and boons reference for instance is completely misplaced and the perspective it takes seems to be completely unwarranted. Why contradict the point you are trying to make with such misleading details?
While the film goes on to liberate the women-folk in theatres with its unapologetic tone, it also looses credibility by using the act of smoking just to accentuate a point it tries to make. This aspect too, is completely uncalled for.
Alankrita Shrivastava’s screenplay, Akshay Singh’s cinematography and Charu Shree Roy’s editing are perfectly in sync with each other. Akshay Singh’s frames impeccably highlight suffocation and liberation with candid yet perfectly constructed shots. Charu Shree Roy’s editing smoothly takes you through the narrative, making sure no scenes are portrayed in a melodramatic manner.
Mangesh Dhakde’s music deserves a special mention for its lingering influence in the film. His notes are so freeing in certain scenes. In some moments, it gently puts the focus on the fact that these women are just as flawed as you or me.
The female leads in the film are remarkable. After a while, all of them become so effortless in delivering their performances that it begins to feel like an inside competition to see who does best. Even the character artists in the film have meaningful roles to play, never being present just to be objectified or glide the story forward.
On the whole, Lipstick Under My Burkha is a thought-provoking film. It is as disturbing as it is moving. It is as arresting as it is defective. But at the end of the day, you should embark on this experience with an open mind to be able to recognize the little and large acts of inequality, women next door meet with on a daily basis. Be warned though, the effects of this film will linger in your mind whether you appreciate the experience or not.