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Lipstick Under My Burkha Movie Review: Great intention but underwhelms with its confused identity

Shubha Shetty Saha | Updated on: 20 July 2017, 15:58 IST
There are a lot of expectations riding on this film, since Pehlaj Nihalani, the censor Board chief had asked for it to be banned with a silly reason not worth mentioning. Nihalani's call for ban only helped the film which otherwise might have been brushed off as yet another festival type feminist movie. It piqued curiosity and one is glad that it will find more audience than it otherwise would have.
Set in the narrow lanes of Bhopal, Alankrita Srivastava's film unabashedly and unapologetically speaks about the hidden or not so hidden desires and dreams of women. in a country, where even now desires are considered a luxury for most women, four of Alankrita's protagonists are in a perpetually vulnerable position, as the baggage of their dreams and unexpressed sexual needs weigh heavily on them.
These are characters who are real, fighting mostly unsuccessfully within the rigid parameters of the system and sometimes taking desperate measures to fulfill their desires, in spite of the adverse conditions. Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah), is the eternal spinster who at the age of 55 is considered over the hill by her family members. Her dormant desires get a wake up call when she spots a 'desirable' swimming coach. Rihana (Plabita Borthakur) feels claustrophobic in the burkha that she's forced to wear and the life that her parents expect her to live. Rihana leads a double life.. Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma) is stuck in a loveless marriage and a house full of children, and an ambition to earn a living independently. Leela (Aahana Kumra), a beautician is struggling to make a choice between the cad she loves and the man her mother thinks is right for her. 
The film comes with a great promise, but unfortunately doesn't really deal with issues pertaining to current scenario, as one would expect it to. A woman's unexpressed and unfulfilled desire is not really a novel subject in Bollywood, per se. It has been an integral part of story telling by some of the stalwarts in Hindi films even back in 60s and 70s.. Lipstick under the burkha could have stood apart by tackling contemporary issues, but it unfortunately takes the cliched route. The case in point is Shireen's story. It is another matter that Konkona Sen Sharma with her brilliant performance manages to lift it even that predictable, oft narrated story to another level. And except for Buaji and Shireen, the other two characters hardly deserve to get your empathy as they look for an easy, lazy shortcuts to get out of their situations. 
The scenes leading to the climax and the climax itself are clumsy and seem hurriedly fitted in to put things in place. A film of this kind would definitely have been more inspiring to find protagonists who manage to get out of their unfortunate circumstances,  instead of characters who think it's okay to stay victims of circumstances as long as they get to smoke together and giggle in the end? 
First published: 20 July 2017, 15:58 IST