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Lipstick Under My Burkha  : Desires Unveiled
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Friday, July 21, 2017
Alankrita Shrivastava
Konkona Sensharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Sushant Singh

The introduction is neat.


Rehana has decent parents who send her to college and ask her to help out at their tailoring shop. But under her burkha she’s desperate to be cool, to wear lipstick, perfume, trendy clothes and party.


Leela’s mother has found her a decent guy. But even on her engagement day, she’d rather make out with photographer Arshad than be with her fiancé.


Shireen lets her husband ram crudely into her every night like it’s his right to be serviced by her. But she can’t share with him the joy of being a successful working womanin her own right.


And then there’s everybody’s Buaji who has nurtured all the tenants of Hawai Manzil like a family. But the respectable senior citizen devours erotic novels on the sly and has anonymous phone sex with her strapping young swimming instructor.


Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava weaves an interesting story using the burkha as a metaphor. It’s erotic with touches of the comic. By basing it in Bhopal, she uses the small town mentality to advantage with a befitting rawness.


But it’s not a perfect script. Buaji’s introduction to the swimming pool is abrupt and unexplained just as her secret lessons go inexplicably undetected. Rehana is interviewed on TV but nobody gets a whiff of her campus avatar. The chauvinistic husband having an extra-marital affair is not just a cliché but you also wonder how the jobless family man could afford those daily coffee dates. Or, what Buaji wears or reads or does in her house should be her business alone with only the swimming instructor she has deceived having the right to showher the mirror. But Alankrita unjustifiably climaxes with Buaji’s tenants barging into her house and shaming her in public. Since when could tenants become custodians of the owner’s morals?


But one overlooks these fault lines as Alankrita’s screenplay moves in and out of all their lives, allowing each track to grow until the women who dare to dream must be stripped of their dignity for daring to step out of the conventional roles allotted to them.It’s not a neatly wrapped up happy ending but the women do look more feistythan beaten in the final shot.


Seasoned Konkona Sen smoulders as Shireen the working housewife. Plabita Borthakur is vulnerable as the college girl who wants to cast off the burkha. Aahana Kumra is vivaciously excellent as duplicitous Leela who has a fiancé but desires her boyfriend. Ratna Pathak Shah who goes from respectable Buaji to a woman with unfulfilled dreams,has a brave role.


Sushant Singh as Konkana’s unfeeling husband and Vikrant Massey as Aahana’s lover bring admirable rawness to their passion.


For a film that makes a good pointand has nothing in it that warranted a ban by the censor board, Lipstick Under My Burkha gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author


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