Unfettered by society
The makers and actors of the upcoming film Lipstick Under My Burkha – Prakash Jha, Ekta Kapoor, Alankrita Srivastav, Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur – come forward to share their journey and their experiences from the sets to the Censor Board in a free-wheeling interview with Antara Agarwal and Rhythem Vatsa.
The beautiful women of this controversial movie talk about society and the changes they hope to see, in a beautiful paradigm. The movie has been described as real, yet entertaining. And Ekta Kapoor says that it would have been very sad to see a film like this and not be a part of it, and that 11 international awards, is only a beginning.
Alankrita, what is the story behind the title? How did it come to your mind?
I have no answer to how it came to my mind; it just did (laughs). The title is a metaphorical idea of the pulsating desire women have to be free. They'll always keep dreaming, and even if society puts them into boxes, or restrain them, they can't kill passion and ambition. It also talks about the idea of a lot of things that women sometimes do in secret, which they're not allowed to do in public. So it's about secret fantasies and hidden wishes.
(To Ratna Pathak) What was your reaction to the script? How challenging was the role for you, considering that such a role for a lady of your age has never been seen before?
'This is fantastic. I want to be a part of it. And I would be an idiot if I'm not a part of it' – that was my first, and frankly my only reaction. The script was extremely well written, and it is one of those films where you completely can't guess what's going to happen next. It was really a page turner. And the role wasn't an extraordinary challenge. Every role can be challenging if written in the right way. I will admit that I had to think about what my family would say if I did this role. But now, I think I have answers for them as well.
(To Ekta Kapoor) You started the #LipstickForMen Campaign to make this film reach out to more people. How did this idea come to you and how are you going to use it further?
The biggest problem is that we generalize films, and typecast movies that come from a thought process as art films. They are really sometimes great and educative. But they often get lost because only a limited number of people watch them. The most beautiful part of this film is that it is very entertaining. While watching it, I never felt that I was being lectured. There came a point during the screening, when we paused the movie and clapped for a scene by Ratna Ji. And I am sure that lots of women will stand up and clap in the theatre in that scene. It was a kind of an emotional release. This film unites people who fight suppression, women who are not acknowledged as women but as their place in a house. When we launched this campaign, I think it was men who supported us more. And this is how an ideology changes. This is not an anti-men process.
This middle finger campaign is for patriarchy. But silently, at some level, is it for the Censor Board too? Why can't we say this to them out loud?
Ekta Kapoor: You're making the fight very small. Don't do that. Censor Board only stops films. The ideology we are fighting for has to be combated on various levels. There are hundreds of women who have been coming up to me and telling me their stories. And they don't even know what the Censor Board is. And on the other hand there have been these big daddies of Bollywood telling me that the movie isn't going to achieve much. So, I don't think it is about the Censor Board, but various kinds of subtle bias you find every day.
Prakash Jha: Censor Board is a mindset of a bygone era. Whenever you give someone authority, that authority can be used in any way. And this is authority over our sense and choices. I don't have anything against Censor Board or Pahlaj Nilani. He is doing the job of a mindset. I have, since time immemorial, been saying that we do not need this authority. The poster of this campaign is just what this film is all about.
(To Ratna Pathak) Do you think that the society is ready to hear these opinions?
Society is never ready to hear an opposing point of view. Anybody with an alternative point of view, whatever it may be, has to fight for space. It's a pity, that we have been cast in the role of an opposing point of view. The world consists of world and women, 50-50 almost, and we're both equally important. But it is true that people get bothered when they want to tell their own stories. I think it is a question of 'Thode din ki baat'. We were not ready for this kind of movie 10 years ago. I am glad this has been made today, when we have an audience for this kind of a movie. This audience isn't very clear headed, but they will definitely want to question themselves after watching the movie. And that is what we really hope for the film to do. And this film will do social service; it will serve as a medium of sex education in India which we are in desperate need of. We don't even know how we became 1.5 billion or whatever the figure is. So, let this film clear it out once and for all.
Aahana, was your family supportive despite the explicit scenes you've done in the movie?
My mom watched the movie at the same time as I did, and surprisingly, she told me that she was proud of me. This movie has changed me as a person. I am more confident about my body now. I never thought in my life that I would do a role like this. This movie has made me more confident in taking up such roles. When the script came out it was like a now or never situation. I feel very happy about the fact that I took this role.
We can see who the female cast is but who are their male counterparts?
Prakash Jha: All the actors, Sushant, Vikrant, Shashank, Vaibhav and Jagat have done an amazing job. There are so many sexual scenes in the movie but none of them are with the intent of titillation. And this wouldn't have been possible without the kind of approach that the male cast had.
Ahana Kumra: I don't think without Vikrant I would have been able to play my role. A man is equally important. In this movie the man and woman equation is very important. We did a lot of workshop for those scenes. I have scenes with both Vikrant and Vaibhav and they were uncomfortable for all of us. There were days when I would have to shoot five days in a row, alternatively with Vikrant and Vaibhav. And my lips would turn blue. The scenes are very gloriously painted on screen but there's a lot of physical discomfort that goes behind them but the crew made it very easy for us and both the actors have done really well.