Lipstick Under My Burkha - Review

wogma rating: Catch on DVD for sure (?)
quick review:

Ace rate dialogue and performances. The topic isn't broached often enough in films. But once it is, we know where it's headed, making this film predictable too.

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Wogma Review

It is only apt that the censor board wanted to censor a whole lot – it is about women's liberty after all. When husbands and boyfriends, fathers and brothers, some times the women in their lives too, extended family, society, governments – all want a say in that liberty, why not the censor board?

The metaphor of a “burkha” is underlined, emboldened and italicised – just in case you miss it. Every dialogue, every frame is a social remark, especially in the first half. The comment is that about oppression under the garb of protection, tradition, culture and so on. Fortunately, the stifled voices don't get preachy, even though they are empowered, alright. The comment is left at that, in stating the fact as a fact.

This stays true to the texture of the film too. If the film provided an over-arching solution, it would be quite out of place. In that sense, Lipstick Under My Burkha has a perfect climax. Also, well done by the writing department is the dialogue and its delivery. The lines are snappy and people talk like people and not actors.

The main characters – none of whom are “right” in what they are doing. If only, the “villains” of their lives were not so one-dimensional. Then again, that is what these people become for stifled women – villains, be it a father or the society at large. That is how these women make you feel for them. Each of these women – Leela (Aahana Kumra), Shirin (Plabita Borthakur), Rehana (Konkona Sen Sharma), Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) - do what they really want to do. Yet, it is the struggle they have to go through, both internal and external, which makes them even more real.

Of course, that is all due to the spot-on depiction by Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur. Ratna Pathak Shah has the most difficult task at hand. The biggest bit is to depict the sexuality of a 55-year old, but her character is also the strength of many around her. This contrast between being a support system and yet needing a hand to hold is very rarely seen in Hindi films.

This is the kind of greyness in character that makes you identify with the film's characters. Even if you are not 55 nor 17 like the characters; even if you are not a suppressed housewife or an outgoing woman with desires of her own, you know an aunt, a cousin, a friend who is/has been there. Which is what makes you let go of the skewed take on gender. For that aunt, cousin or friend the world is indeed a dark cage.

Does it mean we paint all men with a broad stroke of black then? That doesn't seem right or real either. It is this, even if not overt, male-bashing and the self-pity that it masks that bothered me after a while.

Like many “social issue” films, it is difficult to look at movies like Lipstick Under My Burkha, as just a story - like say a story of these 4 women of different ages, from different religions, with different support systems who happen to live in one area of a big city. You cannot not think of the issue they want to discuss. The movie clearly has an agenda and flaunts it on its sleeve. If it is the agenda then, I know it, I live it. Men are not all mean. The level-headed ones might not be living it, but they know and are supportive of it – at home, in the workplace. The other men are unlikely to see the film. Even if they do, they are more likely to laugh at Ushaji (like the few men in the audience where I saw the film) than become sensitive to her desires as real. How does this help? I wouldn't have asked this question had it not come across as the one thing the film wanted to do – sensitize the viewer. Even so, Lipstick Under My Burkha can be watched for its snappy dialogue and sensitive, intense performances.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A scene with man slapping his wife
  • Language: Abusive words
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Sex is not the only, but a predominant theme. Lots of liplocks, a few making-out scenes and a couple scenes where the couple is having sex.
  • Concept: The cage that women stay in – sexual, economic, expression, etc.
  • General Look and Feel: It is a grungy, Mumbai set-up portraying stifled lives.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 3.5
  • Story: 3.5
  • Lead Actors: 5
  • Character Artists: 3
  • Dialogues: 5
  • Screenplay: 2.5
  • Music Director: 3
  • Lyrics: 4

Lipstick Under My Burkha - Movie Details

Lipstick Under My Burkha - Trailer

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