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LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA - Another version of PARCHED that successfully entertains the viewers through its mature content, cleverly served in the name of women empowerment. (Review by Bobby Sing)

22 Jul, 2017 | Movie Reviews / 2017 Releases

The much publicized controversy with the Censor Board gave an impression as if the film was some kind of highly sensitive or hard hitting statement made over the ‘gender-equality’ or ‘women-liberation’ movement in the country. Moreover its title LIPSTICK UNDER THE BURKHA also gave an impression of having some potent content purposefully hurting the exploitive structure of our society.
However, what turns out to be is nothing powerful but a decent, light-hearted film, talking about four women of different age groups fighting for their own life and desires with the society around. Yes, the film has many verbally and visually disturbing scenes requiring an ‘A’ certificate (that might be offensive for many), but nothing for which it deserved to be completely banned as expressed or conveyed by our Censor Authorities. In fact this once again raises the debate that what exactly our Censor Board considers to be the content not suitable for even an adults category film as per their detailed rule book.
Basically being a bold and straight forward take on a woman’s choice of relationships in our society, LIPSTICK UNDER THE BURKHA honestly presents the story of two young girls, a middle-aged married women and an elderly lady living in a locality of Bhopal, individually struggling to fulfill their own fantasies of life. The core structure is exactly similar to what we recently saw in another controversial film PARCHED, but the conclusion is not anything similar as conceived by the two directors. Where PARCHED ended on an unrealistic positive note liberating the three souls, LUMB ends without rescuing its characters out of their individual prisons. It leaves the women as they are, feeling unapologetic for their choices made and that’s what comes out to be the most effective part of the film giving its deserving due. Otherwise, I never found it to be any kind of bold or strong statement made about Women Empowerment or Women Liberation to be honest.
Giving you a clear picture (*spoilers ahead), a 60 years old widow reading cheap, erotic novels, constantly thinking about the three letter word and making obscene anonymous calls to a young boy, might be a personal choice of a physically starved (abnormal) character still struggling at this age with her hidden desires……, but its certainly nothing related to women liberation or empowerment at all. (More focus on her learning swimming and falling for the coach, would have made a much more solid impact)
A college going girl regularly shop-lifting high-end clothes, shoes and more from big showrooms taking advantage of her burkha is actually the case of a misguided, directionless youth attracted towards a fake life….., but certainly nothing related to women liberation or empowerment at all. (Related to this specific character, the scene of her getting arrested and then the dialogue of her college senior revealing the reason of her own pregnancy was quite weak, amateurish and completely in contrast of the senior's earlier image of a tough rebel.)
A young woman willing to begin her own business along with her boy-friend, who herself makes the video of their indecent act, carelessly gets physical with her fiancé and then returns back to the old boyfriend again even after getting brutally humiliated more than once…… is definitely the characteristic of a vulnerable girl always looking for the support from a man….. but certainly nothing related to women liberation or empowerment at all. (Ideally she should have kicked the boy right away after his first assault)
In short, it’s only the character of Konkona Sen Sharma in the film that can be related to the concept of women liberation or women empowerment, who confronts the other lady in his husband’s life in her own thoughtful way bravely visiting her residence.
Interestingly, even the explicit scenes in this film are not shot in any creative way (more inclined toward titillation), that eventually results in quite shallow characterization at times, particularly in the case of the engaged girl, coming back to her boy-friend after her fiancé accidentally gets to see her indecent video. Besides, not a single man in the film is shown in some positive light supporting the young or old woman in their families. May be that is another way of making a propaganda kind of film spreading the message of women empowerment.
In other words, for me LUMB isn’t any revolutionary kind of project making any important ground-breaking statement on behalf of women in our society. As a matter of fact, the film itself uses the identity of woman and her body in such an exploitive form, that all its claims of raising a voice for their rights and equality fall completely flat.
Sharing my personal experience of the theater, I heard a group of young girls laughing and giggling on exactly those very scenes that were supposed to be sensitive and decisive for their related characters. And the most frequent laughs were devoted to Ratna Pathak Shah putting me in a pretty confusing state as a viewer.
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, LUMB scores in its authentic portrayal of day-to-day life of Bhopal and all realistic interactions, but goes on at the same pace without any major high-points till the climax. Almost everyone in the cast performs well but the best act comes from Konkona Sen Sharma, though many would like to rate Ratna Pathak Shah or may be Aahana Kumra as the most appealing one. With some explosive dialogues, decent music and apt background score LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA can easily be rated as a fine one time watch without giving any undeserved importance of being some kind of path-breaking film.
It can also be described as another bold and much polished version of the recent PARCHED (or even ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES) that remains more interested in entertaining the viewers instead of enlightening them. But it’s certainly not the film capable of forcing you the think about the gender equality in a highly positive, constructive or thought provoking manner as was being heavily publicized before its official release.
Frankly, I have seen both PARCHED and ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES in almost empty theaters. And the same would have been the case with LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA too, had there been no clash of the makers with the debatable Censor Board.
In all, do watch it as a fine light-hearted, women-oriented film with an exciting cast ensemble and many fine performances… but nothing more than that to be straight for the reasons mentioned above.
(The article also got featured in UC-News mobile app in July 2017)


Shared below are views - Beyond the initial review with more interesting insights.
As stated in the review at the link above, there is no woman actually conveying anything related to woman liberation or empowerment in the film, though the makers loudly promoted and presented it as some kind of strong representative of the same. The character of Konkona Sen Sharma remains the most closet to the concept, but even she gathers the courage to counter her female rival only and not her exploiting and cruel husband, who is the one responsible for 3 kids, a few abortions and repeated marital-rape.
In addition, watching the four distinctive characters in the film, one also wonders that why the subject of woman liberation or empowerment is mostly represented/related or defined with the woman’s sexual life only? 
Does women empowerment only means sexual freedom in life and nothing else? 
NO, as my personal opinion, this is a much more important, multi-dimensional term that unfortunately gets mostly presented in Hindi films as a synonym of a woman’s sexual preferences promoting a wrong mindset.
So for me LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA is a muddled but still engaging account of the life and desires of four women characters, showcased with an intentional pinch of comedy to entertain and impress the viewers.
That said, two particular sequences in the film certainly deserve some extra brownie points involving two elderly women.
One, where we get to know that Aahana’s ageing mother has been helplessly posing nude as a model for art school’s students since several years. (Though this doesn’t seem to be possible happening in the city like Bhopal, still the thought behind the insertion was appreciable.)
And two, wherein Ratna playing the key character of Bua ji, struggles to remember her real name, when asked by the young swimming coach filling the official form.

As a matter of fact this one particular scene actually conveys a lot more than the entire film, since the elderly ladies in our Indian society, mostly called by a special name tag, do tend to completely forget their actual name after years…….and then one fine day, say their final good-bye too remaining just Bua Ji, Taayi Ji, Jhaayi Ji, Chachi Ji or else.
A simple yet important fact of our Indian society, wherein we unintentionally and so lovingly transform or literally kill the original personality of a woman…….. without even hurting her.
Give it a thought!
Ratings : 3 / 5

Tags : LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, LUMB Review by Bobby Sing, Women oriented films in Hindi Cinema, Controversial Hindi films caught in censor.
22 Jul 2017 / Comment ( 0 )
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