Lipstick Under My Burkha: Celebration of Girl Code and The Bond of Female Friendship

Alankrita Srivastava's heart-warming portrayal of the glory of simple female friendships touches the heartstrings of the critics and viewers alike

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Lipstick under my burkha
The four small town women bond as they catch up for a smoke in Lipstick Under My Burkha. Wikimedia
  • Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is possibly the most talked about film of 2017
  • The film celebrates womanhood and all that comes with being a woman 
  • The film shines in portraying the precious female friendships we form in our day-to-day lives

July 23, 2017: Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is definitely one of the most controversial movies in the history of Indian cinema. The fearlessly feminist film not only gives a voice to the lipstick dreams of the protagonists but also successfully portrays the universal emotions, frustrations, and desires that drive the women of the film. But not just that, this critically acclaimed film also sheds some light on a topic very few Hindi movies have focused on before — the girl code, or the unconditional bond of female friendship. Hollywood has given us shows like Sex and the City or movies like Bridesmaids, but the concept still is relatively unfamiliar when it comes to Bollywood even though there have been a few mention-worthy female friendships in movies now and then.

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Men have this growing misconception that the mere reason for the existence of women is nothing but their omnipotent presence. Women dress for them, live for them, shape their lives around them. Here’s where they are wrong- women do all of that in equal measure for other women, too, perhaps even more so because women tend to be appreciated by other women more. Let’s be honest here, who buys a 50 dollar lipstick for a guy who won’t even be able to identify which shade of red it is! From random friends we make at the bar restrooms to the closest female friends – what matters is that nothing else can empower a woman more than the support of another, and it is sometimes our only hope. This certainly is a concept that Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ understands and portrays very well.

Possibly the most talked about film of 2017, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ revolves around the lives of four very different women who live in the same neighborhood in Bhopal. In no time, the viewers find themselves intertwined with Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah), Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma), Leela (Aahana Kumra), and Rehaana (Plabita Borthakur) who live their regular lives with some extraordinary secrets. This concept is so familiar to the crores of women in India because that sums up their daily lives. While the four women deal with the men of their lives- the dads and the boyfriends and the husbands – all mostly awful yet somewhat similar, the women, just like all of us, without asking or realising, end up finding supporters and listeners in other women.

Also read: Redefining the Essence of Lost Feminism in India

This is not just an on screen story. When the film was being targeted by haters and narrow-minded men, Ekta Kapoor did not hesitate to step in as the distributor of the film,  and she promoted and supported Alankrita and her film every chance she could.

Alankrita has managed to capture to perfection how women take a stand for each other and pull each other up. The ladies help each other out through out the film, whether it’s a little girl literally holding a scared Ratna Pathak Shah’s hand while she takes her up an escalator, or a mother daring to become a nude model to raise her daughter. Women show up for other women in the film and that is beautiful to watch. We see Rehaana doing everything she can to impress her college’s most popular girl because she wants to be in her band while the boyfriend is almost an aside in this track. Shireen can be seen sharing inappropriate jokes with the housewives who are her customers. In another scene, when a mortified Usha runs out of a swimsuit store and runs into Shireen, she tries to cover it up by offering to forgive her rent, but then Shireen buys that swimsuit for her. Here’s where the beauty of the film lies. In any other movie, these scenes would easily be sidelined, nothing related to the main plot. But Alankrita lets these small yet significant moments take the center stage, just like they are in our daily insignificant lives. And just like this, ‘Lipstick Under my Burkha’ becomes as real as a movie can be.

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Also, the film never underestimates the complexity of female relationships. In the film, as in life, some of the worst things that happen to women are constructed by other women. The women in the film carry out several questionable actions, whether out of spite or desperation or plain old sheer lack of a moral compass. People often have the idea that feminists praise women no matter what they do and happily ignore the wrongdoings. Needless to say, that is just an illusion. The film does not glorify the wrongs. In the world we live in, the women around us lift each other up and tear each other down constantly, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is fully aware of that and that is another reason the film is so successful in saying exactly what it wants to say.

Let’s hope more directors dare to portray the reality like Alankrita Shrivastava’s bold lipstick.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter @dubumerang