‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ denied film certification in India

Five reasons specified by Central Board for Film Certification


News - India & You

February 24, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

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A still from the film 'Lipstick under my Burkha'

A still from the film ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’

The idea of gender equality is a joke in India and the most effective mass-medium in the country, cinema, remains a testimony of patriarchal sabotage exercised in the country.

‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ – the name might have sent ripples of fear and identity crisis among the board members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) when they sat down to decide on the certification of this much-acclaimed film. Alankrita Shrivastava, the director of the film, is travelling around the world with the film gathering accolades and earning praises at international film festivals; while back home, the film fails to get a certificate – ironical indeed!

The story revolves around the lives of four women in a small town of India and their journeys to break the norms and satiate their whims and fancies in a male-dominated society. LUMB, if you take the initials of the film’s name, made its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October and bagged the Spirit of Asia Award. The film was also recognised back home in the Mumbai Film Festival (JIO MAMI) with the Oxfam Award for best film on gender equality.

Looking at the objections cited by the CBFC, there is an imperative throwback on what the country’s able filmmakers and cream minds have been voicing for so long. There is a lack of insight and an overdose of patriarchy and misogyny in every step that the ‘censor board’ exercises.

Objection 1: Lady Oriented

Our able certification board members have objected the film stating that the film is ‘lady oriented’. Albeit, I fail to understand the exact meaning of the objection; there must be at least someone in their team who could have explained this vague and outrageous comment. Definitely, the film is female-centric and also made by a lady who is capable of understanding, comprehending and reflecting the problems of the Indian women. Where does the problem lie? Even if you don’t like the film or what it portrays, your job as a CBFC member is to certify it and not block it.

Objection 2: Fantasy above Life

Sexual expressions in India remain a monocracy of the male, at least according to our film certification board. My readers know the name of the chairperson of the CBFC and may want to run a quick research on the films that he made, but what remains quite uproarious is the fact that he objects Alankrita’s film stating that it showed the fantasies of women in India. What is wrong in showing that? The director conceived the idea when her former landlady, a Muslim woman who was otherwise covered in burkha came to her room for an informal chat. The interconnected story of four women who reside in the same building and had hidden desires from life sparked debates, but reasonable ones and perhaps the latent fantasies offended the men in the certification body for the apt reasons.

Objection 3: Contains sexual scenes 

Expression of sexuality is a big challenge in India as far as the conservative society we live in is concerned. How can a film have sexual scenes? We can make songs where women are objectified or creative verses that can inspire eve-teasing, but we can’t even have matured adult content on the name of our culture. The hypocrisy tantamount to an extent that in India filmmakers should now probably consider a fixed template of two flowers or maybe two swans locking lips as a metaphorical explanation of sexual expressions.
Cinema which has an otherwise artistic responsibility towards the society have to take the support of violence and sex and that remains inevitable.

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.
– Jean-Luc Godard

Objection 4: Contains Absurd Words

Let’s Tweet this question to Mr Nihalani and ask him to explain this objection in detail. Shall we?

Let me also bring this to the reader’s notice that on January 1, 2016, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting formed a committee under the Chairmanship of Shyam Benegal to suggest the best norms for film certification. The Benegal committee report was expected to abbreviate the ambiguity about CBFC functions, but here we ended up!

Objection 5: Has Audio pornography

If you speak about one’s latent sexual desires, that too of a woman’s, in India, there is a major problem. It is termed ‘audio pornography’ and a film might get blocked on the merit of such cases or you might have to mute them and/or chuck them out of the film even if the story demands it. We, the audience of the country, have to abide by the rules laid down by the apparent pretence of the state or the state supported systems, and the artists in the country are hence left exposed to the autocracy in the most primitive form.

A country that boasts of democracy glorifies autocracy at its finest.

A country that has produced talismans like Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt has denied growth and maturity in terms of accepting uncomfortable stories. Rather makes room for fine examples of witless individuals like Pahlaj Nihalani at the echelons of cinema.

Let’s look at the letter by CBFC that denies the certification of ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’…


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