At a point in Alankrita Srivastava’s admirably conceived Lipstick Under My Burkha, Usha (played by the 60-year-old Ratna Pathak) finds herself shopping for swimwear and talks about brassieres. For a split second I found myself cringing, and then the thematic starkness of the film came to fore. The barefaced fact that a woman who is currently the age of my grandmother was at the time of her passing shopping for some brand new delicates and had the urge to connect physically with a man struck a deep chord with me.
I found myself reminiscing about my grandmother and wondering if she ever had these thoughts and yearnings, and how many of those went unrequited because the society she was a part of deemed them unwomanly. So many hopes and dreams lost into the ether because quashing them seemed easier than exploring them (for seemingly obvious reasons at that).
Lipstick Under My Burkha (which could straightforwardly be retitled Lipstick Under My Ghunghat) follows the stories of four “ordinary” women who live in the almost-metropolitan city of Bhopal. Rihana is a school-going rebel who has the precociousness to live her dreams, Leela is a beautician stuck between a rock (her fiancée) and a hard place (her lover) in a claustrophobic small town, Shireen is a housewife and mother of three who cannot avoid the sexual advances of her domineering husband but wants to find a smidgen of independence by taking up a job (unbeknown to him), and Usha is a 55-year-old widow whose sexual world is resuscitated by means of having a telephonic romance with a swimming coach.
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