Meet a quartet of unusual suspects, or rather meet four unusual heroines whose imaginations and impulses pop the buttons of the mindset they’ve been given to wear.
They’re women who guide their lives by random signs, have been subjugated for far too long and now yearn to break free. A typical ‘lady-centric’ film (oh lord, the censor board actually coined a new genre), you might say. Fortuitously Lipstick Under my Burkha conceived and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, despite its few flaws, is way more vital than just another politically correct bid for articulating the empowerment of women.
Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Plabita Borthakur And Aahana Kumra In Lipstick Under My Burkha
Post 2000, along with Leena Yadav’s Parched, here’s a film which has an engrossing story to tell with inventive cinematic flourishes, besides stating it loud and clear, that when it comes to sex, let’s not get coy and circumspect. Sexual desires, love, lust and way-out fantasies aren’t the prerogative of men. Like it or not, this has to be iterated forthrightly, never mind the Victorian moral policing of Mr Nihalani and his board of scissorhands.
In fact, just forget the fact that the ‘ladywalli picture’ had faced flak. It’s here at last, and three cheers for that. Over then to a 55-year-old aunty aka buaji (Ratna Pathak-Shah) who’s madly attracted to a beefy lifeguard at the local swimming pool. Out go her inhibitions: she engages in ‘phone sex, gets as hot as a pressure cooker on a boil and can’t get enough of poring through a paperback novel titled Lispstick Dreams.
Next: Catch a sales woman (Konkona Sen Sharma) who enjoys stepping out of the confines of the four walls of her home, but has to do it on the sly – aha faint shades of Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar here. Sex with her husband is mechanical if not tiresome, which is no reason for her to accept a loveless relationship.
You’re bound to recognise the college girl (Plabita Borthakur), who longs to become a rock star while toiling away at the family business of burkha tailoring. And the beauty palour worker (Aahana Kumra) is into a torrid but tenuous affair with someone outside her religion. For the foursome, it’s time to get up, stand up for their rights, and don’t give up the fight.
The names, faiths and location (Bhopal) don’t matter. Their condition is resonant of women anywhere. Gratifyingly, the universality of the theme is conveyed, without a shred of didacticism. On the downside, the male characters are predictably and unnecessarily sketchy. How you wish there had been at least a semblance of an attempt to balance the genders.
Ratna Pathak Shah In Lipstick Under My Burkh
The lipstick is emblematic of breaking away from the regressive system, and the bukha seems to suggest an enclosure. Since the symbology works you go with it. However, the backdrop of Diwali firecrakers towards the closure of the four interwoven stories, is heavy-handed in an otherwise bittersweet dramaturgy spiked with irony and humour.
The production design’s intimate and catches the atmospherics. Among the other uppers, count Akshay Singh’s cinematography and the music score by Zebunissa Bangash and Mangesh Dhakde.
None of the four principal players strives for those attention grabbing ploys. Every one of them strikes you as a woman who’s churning emotionally and physically. Yet of the quartet, Ratna Pathak-Shah does have an edge, thoroughly endearing in a role which could have become an embarrassing caricature under a lesser actor.
Yup, so if you care for cinema which is bold and aesthetically beautiful, go ahead and get that ballsy shade of Lipstick right here, right now.