Four women who want to be a little more acknowledged and free, and their intertwined lives with that of Rosy – the protagonist of a Hindi erotic novel – is what makes Lipstick Under My Burkha an absolute delight to watch.
Ratna Pathak Shah plays the quintessential bua ji, whose heart skips a beat or two when a young man refuses to call her bua ji and asks her name (Usha), which until then seems she had quite forgotten. After losing her husband in the Bhopal gas tragedy, the 55-year-old’s only source to entertain her sexuality are a few erotic novels that she reads secretly. Konkona Sen Sharma (Shireen) plays a submissive burkha clad mother of three, and a talented but submissive wife whose voice and wishes go unheard by her chauvinist husband. Leela, played by Aahana Kumra is a local beautician in love with a struggling photographer. While her mother had planned her marriage elsewhere, Leela gets caught in the act with her lover on her engagement day and has to choose between love and financial security. The youngest of the lot, Rihana (played by Plabita Borthakur) is a college student who admires Miley Cyrus, and hates wearing burkha, ironically while her exceptionally conservative parents sell them. She takes to shop lifting to meet her fancy demands which would otherwise go unsatisfied given her orthodox parents and poor economic status. Each of them eventually leads double lives to balance their situations.
Together these four ladies dodge various forms of repressions and try to embrace life in their own situations until things fall apart gradually.
Alankrita Shrivastava and Gazal Dhaliwal have together created an inspiring script with heart-wrenching dialogues like Leela’s console to Shireen, “Pata hai di humari galti kya hai? Hum sapne bohot dekhte hai,” which strike the right chords aptly pointing out the futile efforts women make to achieve happiness. And then comes “Biwi ho, shohar banner ki koshish mat karo,” from Sushant Singh – words crude enough to attack any woman’s self-esteem who is by all means superior to her male counterpart.
The narration of the novel through Shah’s voice metaphorically tallies with the lives of the four protagonists, breaking the stereotypical narrative style in Bollywood. Director Alankrita Shrivastava undoubtedly and unquestionably has held up the torch paving a way for her audience to experience the pain of her characters on screen. With hopes of Shrivastava directing more meaningful films like this, Lipstick Under My Burkha is definitely her masterpiece.
When a film’s cast is an ensemble of outstanding actors like Konkona Sen, Ratna Pathak Shah and Sushant Singh, along with Marathi actor Vaibhav Tatwawaadi (who was previously seen in ‘Hunterr’) Vikrant Massey, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur and Shashank Arora the outcome is nothing short of a revolution striking its way through the viewers’ life.
A lonely woman’s voyeuristic pleasures, an unquenching thirst for sex, the joy of success and the freedom of living according to one’s will – To sum it up, the film has it all – the spices, and ingredients required to bake the fluffiest and yummiest cakes of all.
With real life situations set in the Tier-2 city of Bhopal, the film does not recreate the magic through expensive mis-en-scene or larger than life characters, but delves deep into the lives of ordinary women who continue to be dominated by everyone else around them. The subtle humorous touch of realism and the heart breaking truths are what makes Lipstick Under My Burkha one of the most anticipated and intellectual films this year. Be a feminist or a misogynist, woman or a man – a worthy watch like this would help open your eyes a little wider to experience and perceive your surroundings better with some lipstick waale sapne!