The past year saw one Bollywood film that gave rise to much debate on the topic of freedom of sexual expression and choice. Women from all over the country came together on the streets and social media when CBFC banned the film “Lipstick Under My Burkha”. The reason cited by the then chairman of CBFC Pehlaj Nihlani was that the film was too “lady oriented”.
Numerous women and men jumped in support the award-winning film and made sure that it got an appropriate certification from CBFC and the ban on its release in India lifted. People were angry because the CBFC didn’t have any issues with the sexual content in the film. Its objection was that the film showed liberal women enjoying sex, and yearning for independence and wanting to break away from the society. CBFC represented our rudimentary social dictates which could not afford the thoughts of liberty in the Indian women’s head. Heavens forbid if millions of docile wives, decide to become financially independent behind their husband’s back!
What would happen to our heritage if unmarried girls and middle-aged women start yearning for sexual pleasures outside the institution of marriage?
Lipstick is not just important because it led to a feminist uprising. It is a well-crafted piece of art, with powerful performances. The Prakash Jha film follows the story of four women, who live in small-town Bhopal and challenge the boundaries of reinforced patriarchy. The film explores aspects of femininity which are often hidden. Alankrita Shrivastava’s directorial stars Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabitha Borthakur.
Moreover, for me, the beauty of the film is in its ending. A bittersweet ending, which tells us that no matter what continue to dream on. The society will do everything possible to make sure we abide by its definition of the quintessential “Bhartiya Nari”. It will go to the extent of banning films which might fill up our heads with the ideas of liberation.
But the society and CBFC are ignoring something very important. Cinema is a reflection of society.
Also, our stand and revolt against the ban of Lipstick Under My Burkha is as important to Indian women as is the #MeToo movement globally. Both movements are about women putting their foot down. It is a reinforcement that we will not tolerate oppression at the hands of powerful men or institutions anymore. Now women know that if we stand shoulder to shoulder, and have support, we can tackle the Weinstiens.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.