“Lipstick Under My Burkha” too “Lady-oriented” for Bollywood

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Today in sexism.

Prakash Jha’s movie, “Lipstick Under My Burkha” was denied certification by India’s censor board, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), for being “lady-oriented.” The censor board accused the movie of being sexually graphic and “a bit of sensitive to one particular section of society.”

The movie centers on the lives of four women in Bhopal who were, in their own ways, transcending gender and social boundaries. It follows an aspiring singer, a housewife who looks for work outside of her home, a young engaged woman with a lover, and an older woman looking for love. “Lipstick Under My Burkha” is one of the few Indian movies made to date that could have depicted such a nuanced account of womanhood in a small town in India. The fact that it was considered too “lady-oriented” is telling of how much India needs a movie like this.

Mamta Kale, a member of the CBFC, however argued instead that this movie was not about women’s empowerment.

“Being a woman, you can talk about your sexual rights but you have to keep one thing in mind as to how you are showing that issue,” she said. “Can families go together to watch such a movie? No, they cannot.”

Bollywood movies tend to depict Indian women as ideal women or side characters. Women are traditionally defined within the sphere of domesticity, while men in Indian cinema are afforded more complex characterizations in broader contexts. In order for a movie to include themes of sexual desire and abusive language, it can’t center women. When a movie such as this one attempts to show a different narrative — even if it chooses not to pass any moral judgments — it gets shut down for being vulgar.

The reception of the ban has been mixed. Many have been supportive of Prakash Jha and this move for female empowerment and condemnatory of CBFC’s weak reasoning to ban the film.

Others have been quick to point out the hypocrisy of Bollywood:

As of now, Prakash Jha will be appealing to to the tribunal.

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