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India: “Lipstick Under My Burkha” denied certification: Censor board, we are grown ups. When will you?

Thursday 23 February 2017, by siawi3


Lipstick Under My Burkha denied certification: CBFC states Prakash Jha’s film might offend the sensibilities of the society and have a negative impact on the audience.

Written by Priyanka Sundar

New Delhi
Updated: February 23, 2017 9:01 pm

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The Central Board of Film Certification refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha, directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha. The official letter that was sent to the production house citing multiple guidelines for denying certification has gone viral, not just for their terrible spellings, but also the content itself. The examining committee, in fact, went as far as to call the film starring Konkana Sen Sharma and Rathna Pathak Shah in pivotal roles, ‘lady-oriented’, with ‘contanious sexual scenes [sic]’. They have also cited that the film has abusive words, audio pornography (commonly known as phone sex), and what they call ‘a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society’, which we assume is the part played by the burkha in the film.

WatchVideo| WHAT?! CBFC Denies Certification To ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ For Being ‘Lady Oriented’

Let us take a look at what we have seen of the film so far.

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a story about four women. From the trailers, it looks like a colourful representation. A kaleidoscope of narratives that is not overwhelming, but just right. It is about a burkha-clad college student, Rehana Abidi, who seems passionate about singing; a beautician who loves being photographed (so much so, that she is shown taking a selfie while she is having sex) and the attention that comes with it; a mother of three who is tired of being treated like a baby-carrying machine and a 55-year-old widow who realises that her sexual drive is still running strong.

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These are things that women go through every day in their life. Yes, not all college students are confident in front of an audience, not all pretty girls make it to the silver screen; of course, not all mothers are happy to be treated as nothing but a body for procreation, and 55-year-old women do want and sometimes need a physical relationship. The two-minute trailer gives us a sense of the struggles that these women go through.

Watch | Lipstick Under My Burkha teaser

The film probably chronicles how these women overcome the pressures of the society, how they find time away from the hectic schedule of being a parent and how to be strong in the face of judgmental confrontations. If you are a woman, there is surely a personal connect that you would feel with a least one of these characters.

Yes, there are scenes that are overtly sexual, there are scenes of lovemaking, and there are also scenes of women smoking. However, none of this is new to the audience. We have seen actors make love on screen — be it in Shootout at Wadala, or Jism 2. Both these films were awarded an ‘A’ certificate. So why a different treatment to an award winning film?

Also read | CBFC denies certification to Prakash Jha’s Lipstick Under My Burkha for it is ‘lady oriented’. Are you shocked already?

The quoted guidelines are 1(a), 2(vii), 2(ix), 2(x), 2(xi), 2(xii) and 3(i).

Let’s decode this to layman’s terms. 1(a) states the medium of film remains responsible and sensitive to the values and standards of society. So the CBFC’s take is that to make a film about the four woman and their life is insensitive to the values of the society. The standards of the society demands that information about what women go through in their life should never be shared.

This might in turn result in going against the guideline 2(vii), which states that human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity. Of course, we filmgoers have not heard ‘f bombs’ or S*** uttered by our favourite stars.

Guideline 2(xi) states scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented. I wonder what they thought about all the item songs that has made so much money. What about all the suggestions, dialogues and comments in so many commercial films that degrade women?

2(x) states that scenes involving sexual violence against women like attempt to rape, rape or any form of molestation or scenes of a similar nature are avoided, and if any such incidence is germane to the theme, they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown. Udta Punjab, the movie that received so many accolades last year, went head-to-head with CBFC for its certification too. However, the film did get the certificate after it approached the High Court. The CBFC had ordered 89 cuts initially but the scene which was not really included in the list was the one where Kumari Pinky (Alia Bhatt) was raped. We wonder why they quote this guideline now.

2(xi) scenes showing sexual perversions shall be avoided and if such matters are germane to the theme they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown. There is no way in which we could confirm what this means. The CBFC states this guideline after a film has been awarded Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award. This same film was also awarded the Asia Spirit Prize in Tokyo International Film Festival and is also set to premier in London, France and USA.

2(xii) visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented. All the films that had racial content come under this category. If CBFC deemed it necessary, even Chennai Express could make it to the list for having hurt the collective sentiments of south India.

3(i) Is judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact. Ironic is what this is. A film, awarded internationally for its content; for creatively and effectively putting forth its take on marital rape, religious orthodoxy, sexuality of older women and most importantly women taking agency over their bodies is sure to have a negative impact on the society according to CBFC. Sure.