Our biggest mistake is that we dream, we dream big. Let me rephrase, a woman’s biggest mistake is that she dreams. Lipstick Under My Burkha is all about these dreams and the shattering of these dreams, which sometimes could be ‘lipstick wale sapne’.
The story is about four women, Usha or Bua Ji played by Ratna Pathak Shah who is a middle aged widow who realises her sexuality pretty late in life and reads out Rosie’s erotic fiction, Konkona Sensharma’s Shireen is a victim of marital rape, she has no consent in the house but outside of it, she is a ruling saleswoman. Leela played by Aahana Kumra is a sexual woman dodging her sexual desires between the love of her live and the man she is supposed to marry. And lastly there is Plabita Borthakur who plays Rehana, an 18 year old who cannot be restricted by her burkha.
Kudos to director Alankrita Shrivastava who thought of making a film like this. She carves these four narratives into each other with so much ease and intelligence. It is sort of unsaid that the young Rehana will eventually turn into the sexual Leela, who will later become Shireen and eventually the deprived Usha. Shrivastava’s writing deserves praise. The maturity with with she carves out each character left me spellbound. Though the dialogues could have been more impactful, but otherwise this film is a win-win situation.
Coming to the acting, not one person, man or woman is out of place! Ratna Pathak Shah plays Buaji with such perfection that it makes you believe that no one could have ever played the character. Konkona Sensharma is devi. Between A Death in the Gunj and Lipstick, I don’t know if I like her more as a director or an actor. It’s just too tough to choose. Debutants Plabita Borthakur and Aahana Kumra are given tough parts but they make you believe that they have been in films for years now, specially Kumra.
Let’s not forget the men. Sushant Singh as Shireen’s husband who likes to assert every time that he is the man of the house, is amazing, and so are Jagat Solanki as Jaspal and Shashank Arora as the bad boy who has sex with college girls, gets them pregnant, and leaves them. But we have a winner here, Vikrant Massey, who is perhaps, the new Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Of course, not as refined, because Nawaz is the best anyone can be, but like Nawaz, even Vikrant seems to be able to play any freaking character written on this earth.
Special mention to Prakash Jha and Ekta Kapoor for believing in this film.
What acts as an advantage to this narrative, is the city of Bhopal. Very well thought! It is cities like Bhopal, which are on the verge of becoming metropolitan cities Jahan pe laaj, Sharm, tehzeeb, play a very important role. Such cities haven’t become so advanced to leave behind even patriarchal culture.
The conclusion of the film is not very satisfying literally but when we look from a realistic point of view, it is the best Shrivastava could have written. It leaves us with a message that aese hi chalega boss, because these women aren’t “heroines”, specially not those from Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion, Heroine or even the upcoming Indu Sarkar, if I may predict. Yeh biwi hai, aur biwi hi rahengi, shauhar nahi ban sakti…
All in all, Lipstick Under My Burkha is definitely the kind of cinema we need in todays time.
If I had to rate the film, there are thousands of cases of marital rape, women being suppressed, women being married without consent, women being slammed *Kangana Ranaut* and so on and so forth. So if you think that this film is a fragment of Shrivastava’s imagination, you, my friend, are wrong!