Finally, the much shouted and debated 'lady oriented' LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is seeing the light this Friday. Produced by Prakesh Jha Productions and distributed by Ekta Kapoor's ALT Balaji, LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is a metaphoric statement about desires of women regarding, sex, fantasies, lust, love and freedom and is weaved enthrallingly in writer -director Alankrita Shrivastava's second feature (Turning 30!!! first). This bold, beautiful and vital piece of cinema raises a toast to life, freedom and gender equality.
LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA MOVIE STILLS
Speaking openly on the subject, the movie written by Alankrita and Suhani Kanwar opens with a voice over from Mills & Boon's desi
erotica that describes how 'Rosy' is coming to terms with her 'jawani'
, (frown eyebrows may have started from here itself at CBFC) Rehana (Plabita Borthakur), a jeans clad teen in college from a traditional Muslim family of Burkha tailor's is seen shoplifting a trendy lipstick and hiding it under her Burkha in old Bhopal. The symbolism is perfect and works like love at first sight; you are hooked, searching for more intimacy. This is where Alankrita Shrivastava in her second film turns into a filmmaker 'to watch out' for.
Four courageous women, a married Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma) a burkha-clad housewife and a mother of three children works as a door-to-door saleswoman without the knowledge of her husband played by Sushant Singh who works in Gulf. Shireen's husband is currently on a two week vacation. Shireen is trying her best to cope with those zero intimacy encounters with her husband at night and failures to gain courage to tell her husband about the job and the prospects that it offers. Leela (Aahana Kumra) really ambitious and frank beautician from a town like Bhopal is about to be engaged but the girl is madly in love with her Muslim photographer boyfriend Arshad (Vikrant Massey). Shireen, Leela and Rehana, the four share the same dwelling - Hawa Mahal- owned by Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) - the fourth in this awesome foursome.
Buaji (actual name Usha) is the one whose voice over we hear throughout the film. Usha a proud owner of Hawa Mahal is fighting the greedy builders, who want to buy her historic home which has entered into record books for its samosas, leads a fantasy life in private by reading those Hindi erotic stories. One day she develops a crush on a swimming pool life-guard (Jagat Singh) and the stories of Usha, Shireen, Leela and Rehana get masterly intervene and we find them trapped in the same tangle of patriarchy, family, society, traditions and hypocrisy.
Alankrita Shrivastava cleverly uses the Hindi erotic voice over to make a serious film like LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA have its dose of pleasant sly humour. Alankrita is able to create a constant flow of pleasantly entertaining slice of life moments in this potent and symbolic piece of cinema that asks women to stand up for their rights. Danger of becoming preachy in such themes is inevitable but surprisingly the writer-director ensures that the interwoven stories are colorful in appearance, breezy and humorously engaging.
The influence of Satyajit Ray's MAHANAGAR (Konkana's part) and the basic aura/feel of Iranian women centric films are smelled but we are not complaining.
Primarily aimed at the women and rightly so, but however this bold and beautiful cry for gender equality typecasts men. The steamy phone sex could have been avoided.
Vikram Singh's production design sets the mood and Akshay Singh's cinematography is first rate. Zebunissa Bangash and Mangesh Dhakde's music is good to the ears while watching the film. Production values are top class.
LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is an undeniable testimony of the incredibly brilliance in the talents the four protagonist played by Ratna, Konakana, Aahana and Plabita possess as an actress.
Buaji - Usha played by Ratna Pathak Shah if done by any other less accomplished actor, could have easily turned into a irritating caricature but the sheer brilliance of Ratna makes Buaji - the most layered and enjoyable episode of this ensemble film. Portraying the coyness as Rosy and sternness as the 50 plus old lady who won't give her ancestors house is played to marvelous perfection and edge by Ratna Pathak Shah.
Konkona Sen Sharma is brilliant as the dutiful Shireen who when circumstance demands cuts her husband's lover to size with terrific ease.
Debutant Aahana Kumra is talent to watch out for. She has the looks, poise and attitude. Aahana gives a polish performance and makes her presence felt.
Plabita Borthakur's character Rehaana catches the interest of today's youth in small towns. Working as a metaphor of their desires, dream trapped in the rigid tradition that works as a mirror to the society we are living where sometimes wearing Jeans is objectionable. Plabita is very natural and effective in her act.
From the supporting cast, Vikrant Massey is perfect; Sushant Singh is fantastic in portraying the chauvinist male to perfection. Jagat Singh as the life guard at the swimming pool is fine.
To sum it up, LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is not a routine weekend phenomenon we enjoy with our families, it's a rare occurrence on screen that demands debate, has its own voice and dares to say something important and relevant. It has its feminist tones but in a society where we have seen ladies labeled as chachi
, in their households and muhalla, Buaji in this film represents those chachis
, when asked to say her name by the hunk at the swimming pool she takes a pause to remember her name. LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is not just about desires, lust and fantasies of women like buaji
, it's an attempt to make the buajis
, the middle aged Shireen, the ambitious Leena and the teen Rehana find their lost identities in the society.
It's bold, thought provoking and also engaging.
Go if you demand something different and cinematic this weekend. You won't regret it.