Team Lipstick Under My Burkha Talks About Intimate Scenes, Tabboos And The Patriarchy
Lipstick Under My Burkha director Alankrita Shrivastava and the film’s stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur are at their candid best in this interview
After a long and controversial battle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Lipstick Under My Burkha is ready to hit theatres this Friday. SpotboyE.com caught up with director Alankrita Shrivastava and the film’s stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur and the conversation veered from female sexuality, to contraception and censorship. Excerpts:
The title of the film Lipstick Under My Burkha is intriguing, so how did you come up with such a unique name?
Alankrita Shrivastava: Well, it just emerged in my mind; I didn’t have to think it through so much. It is a metaphoric title and to me, it means that women will never stop dreaming and they have a pulsating desire for freedom. Even if we imagine that they are happy with their lot and when it looks like they are toeing the line, they are always dreaming of more.
So what made you choose lipstick as a metaphor to describe women’s desire?
Alankrita Shrivastava: Well, there was no specific reason per-se. Like I said, the whole title is metaphoric. Lipstick represents the idea of dreams, rebellion, aspirations, and of something very intimate. For me, it speaks of wanting a little colour in one’s life.
Ratna Pathak, you essay the role of a 55-year-old widow whose sexuality is rekindled through a phone romance with a young swimming coach. Your character in the film is misunderstood, and slammed. How was the experience of playing such a role?
Ratna Pathak Shah: Actually she doesn’t only express her sexual desires (chuckles)...she expresses her desire to be an individual, a human being just for herself. She has fulfilled all her responsibilities and now is actually imagining a life for herself. That itself seems to be so shocking to so many people. Women usually give up imagining anything for themselves once they have children, because everything goes to the child or the family and the demands just keep growing. They just presume that we know what to do with the children because we are women! Excuse me! I don’t think it’s as easy as that (laughs).
Konkona Sen Sharma: There’s so much pressure on the kids too as your parents are living through you.
Ratna Pathak Shah: (Agreeing with Konkona) Absolutely, I mean we are definitely struggling in many ways all through our lives and women of all ages are. But an older woman in India definitely has more at stake because she then becomes the repository of all the patriarchal norms. It becomes her responsibility to pass that behaviour on to the next generation. I feel that this film must be watched by women of my age and women of every age to see how much pressure, wrong pressure is put on men and women, but more on women.
Which was the most fun part of shooting the film?
Ratna Pathak Shah: Ah! So many fun parts, hard to choose (laughs). But I think I had the more difficult scenes. And those were scenes that I needed to pick up some courage for. These are not the kind of scenes that I really believe were for public consumption but in this film, I definitely think, it’s an important point to be made. Therefore I found a way to do it and eventually I feel a great sense of release having done it.
Konkona, you essay the role of a homemaker with three children. Then we spot you heading to a pharmacy and buying condoms. Do you think Indian women are still hesitant to buy condoms?
Yes, that’s true and not just condoms but probably sanitary napkins as well. It’s good that we are able to put it out there.
Aahana, were you comfortable shooting the bold scenes with Vikrant Massey?
Aahana Kumra: The first time when we shot together, we had done workshops and spoken at length about it. He’s a seasoned actor.
I think if it wasn’t for Vikrant, I probably would not have been so comfortable doing such scenes with anybody else. I remember when we shot for the first time it was a bit awkward for both of us. He started sweating and we were just staring at each other for five minutes (laughs). So, it was a really strange situation. Ultimately, we found our way and Alankrita made us comfortable. It was a small set-up as she understood our inhibitions plus our crew was really nice.
Ratna Pathak Shah: Also, there were many men on our sets but we didn’t get any unpleasant vibes or experienced any discomfort which is quite extraordinary.
Plabita, you essay the role of an 18-year-old burkha-clad college girl who seeks freedom. Do you relate to the character?
Plabita Borthakur: Yeah, I think all of us do. We all go through a little bit of identity crisis. Maybe, not everyone deals with family pressure but usually college students do feel the pressure to be cool and look good all the time.
What are your expectations from the film?
Ratna Pathak Shah: It will be a super hit; it will play in theatres for the next 25 years (laughs).