Lipstick Under My Burqa

Last year, this time, I read Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian“. The book depicts the journey of an ordinary South Korean housewife towards sexual liberation and an alternative life. This book left me perplexed with unresolved conflicts and grey emotions. This Man booker International Awards 2016 winner with shades of sensuality and madness without a method stood stoically against the patriarchal barriers. There was a duality in the desires and bigotry in the war of the genders. It was a story of radical transformation. A liberation from the dogma of a dysfunctional society, suppressing wants and desires of women.

Last week, I watched “Lipstick under my burqa” at an upscale Gurgaon mall. Last show of the movie and not a single catcall or smirk penetrated the intense theatre space. “Unsanskari” sex scenes played on the screen now and then. These are neither pelvic thrusting, navel flashing, hip gyrating, dripping-under-the-artificial-rain made up sensual heroines from soft core movies of the 80s. Nor are they witless bimbettes in micro minis from the “Masti” Franchise. They were real women and these were moments straight from real lives. From the overcrowded living spaces of lower middle class households. 

These were glipses of tattered lives from an old dilapidating house, with the matriarch of the house keeping the house and its people from falling into shambles. These were closed spaces where families turn a deaf ear to the cries of help, however painful. The protagonists of the movie were real people we share breathing space with. People we look into the eye every day but not see in the real sense.

These were real women and the moments were straight from real lives. Their desires weren’t technicoloured. They were real, like five fingers at the end of our palm. The vibrancy of their desires tickled the inline of palms with somersaulting emotions. 

These were charcoal pencil drawn shades of grey, messing with our gullible hands, leaving indelible marks on our impressionable minds. These shades created images and impressions of their own. The shades of grey slowly gravitate towards a sliver of hope, however bleak. Gloomy, grotesque, dark and real. Empowered, sensual, seductive and hopeful.

This movie has the stench of rotten desires but also has the aroma of fresh love. Love that illusional, that momentous, may be a tad bit deceptive. A love that desires and dares to dream of ambition, lust and passion.

The “Lady-Oriented” movie makes you smell the stench of rotten desires but also gives you a whiff of fresh love. Love that illusional, that momentous, may be a tad bit deceptive. A love that desires and dares to dream of ambition, lust and passion.

Those of us who think life can only be black & white live in a constant state of denial. Some of us refuse to look the grey hues in the eye. What happens in the name of conjugal rights, poverty, rigidity, religion, society behind closed door is the stark, naked truth of the society.

Leela could be that spirited girl, who sells cosmetics post her parlour shift. She wants to own a parlour someday. Buaji is that nameless aunt, widowed at 45 years. Any suggestion of her remarriage hushed down under the cacophony of ‘magar log kya kahenge’. At 60 now, she lives with her working daughter, raising her grand -children. Shirin is the efficient office receptionist who works an early morning shift, to study an extra hour for her masters after work. She manages to be home in time, to cook food for her traditional extended family. Rehana, the talented neighbourhood college girl missed her final year exam. Because all good bijness family daughters belong to ghoonghat and sasural post puberty.

It is a false presupposition that we have moved to an egalitarian set up. The biases still exist. Against a gender, a class, a region or a mindset.

Lipstick under my burqa effectively portrays the baby steps taken by four women towards liberation from the dogma of society. Their lives intertwine at some point during the journey, handholding each other without judging or being intrusive. The movie offers you no solution in the end, neither does it preach in any manner. It shows you how brazenly these four women embrace the grey shades of their lives.

It takes you through the juxtaposition of the modern and rudimentary side of the same city, a city that nurtures your dreams and also robs you of your desires ( Bhopal, my love!). The movie leaves you disturbed yet thoughtful and hopeful in the end. You know this is not an ending but you see a sliver of hope emerging through the grey. The lipstick under the burqa is still shining bright and fire in their bellies upsurging, raging.

Visceral and enthralling. Lipstick the movie was an inward journey for the viewer in me. Watched the movie, with knots in the stomach, fisted fingers, sweaty palms and a throbbing heart.


PS : This review is from someone who, whole heartedly rooted on social media for the release of the movie. More power to Alankrita Srivastava  and the team, Lipstick Under My Burqa. Keep shining!



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