Ratna Pathak Shah, Actor
Lipstick Under My Burkha is an important film because it talks about the lives of women in India today. If it is prevented from finding an audience, then that is a crying shame. It certainly does not show the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in a ‘good light’. They are so concerned with showing things in ‘good light’. They once cut a bit out of a film because it showed the Hindi film industry in a ‘bad light’.
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What I fear it shows is the distress that certain members of our society feel about the changes that are happening around us — that women want a life for themselves, that they want rights over their own bodies. This is something that frightens them. But patriarchy has been the default setting of our society for so many years that any shaking up of that notion brings out the trolls. The film is not only about women’s sexuality. That is only a small part of the film. It is also about their economic and reproductive rights, their position within the family, mainly about their dreams for themselves. I am deeply worried that the argument will be sensationalised and that these real issues will be lost.
Changing mindsets is not an easy exercise so we must resist the temptation to polarise opinions and to find ways to work together with people who do not think like us. I wish the CBFC had initiated a debate if they were so upset by the film. Instead, they are slamming doors in our face. I will support the fight to get this film to the audience in India in whichever way I can. Lipstick Under My Burkha deserves that chance. Let the audience decide whether they agree with the film.
Alankrita Shrivastava, Director
I DID not anticipate this at all. I last saw the release of films such as Parched, Pink, Margarita with a Straw. There had been a first screening for the examining committee of CBFC and, when they came out, it seemed that they were divided. They said that it was a hard-hitting film and it does reflect the reality of India.
We had a second screening on February 20 — and that is when I met Pahlaj Nihalani, the CBFC chairperson. He said that the unanimous decision was to refuse the film a certificate. It was not as if they had a problem with some parts of the film. They were opposed to it entirely.
There was no space for discussion or debate. Then, I got a letter. Next, we have a hearing with the tribunal in Delhi, which has the final call in such matters. There will be a lot more paperwork. This issue is not just about my film, but it’s the systematic shutting down of an independent way of thinking by women. It so strange that anything that challenges their conventional way of thinking should be shut down, or banned. Lipstick Under My Burkha was compared to Grand Masti. Do these people not watch world cinema? What age and times are they living in? Anything with a women’s point of view is scary for them. I am determined to get the film released, no matter what.
Prakash Jha, Producer
It is a beautiful movie about women of small towns in India. I am very proud of the film. I don’t know what ethics and code of morality CBFC follows while issuing certificates to a movie and what fits into their plan. We make films to tell good stories. This film does not seem to fit into the programme of those controlling CBFC. It is not a big commercial movie. We would have had a regular release that these kind of middle-of-the-road movies have.
The film was screened at the Tokyo Film Festival and we had many people come up to Alankrita (Shrivastava) and congratulate her. We got a standing ovation at the recent Jio MAMI film festival in Mumbai. It’s a film that you would recommend to your friends. As for the CBFC, I don’t understand what they mean by saying the film has “a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of the society”. We screened the film in Cairo and got a tremendous response.
Aahana Kumra, Actor
I am not surprised. Look what they did with Udta Punjab. At this rate, will there be any space left for art, culture and expression in our country? I am angry. We had not asked for a U certificate — we were quite happy with an A certificate. At least, give us an opportunity to screen our work. The rest we can leave to the audience.