Feminism Movies

An Award-Winning Film In India Is Banned For Being Too “Lady-Orientated”. Seriously.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Another day, another group of people who are afraid of the power of women and therefore want to shut that shit down immediately. It’s really old reading stories like these, but not only must we read them, we must discuss them as loudly as we can in the hopes that maybe one day the stories won’t happen at all.

Lipstick Under My Burkha is an Indian film that was released in December 2016 and since then has made some major waves in it’s home country of India. The film revolves around the lives of four very different women in small towns, dealing with a variety of issues that come with being a woman in a highly patriarchal society. Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, the film was banned in India by the Central Board of Film Certification for being “lady-orientated” and has “contentious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography, and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society.” In a report by NPR, Shrivastava stated, “There’s already a lot of self-censorship for filmmakers. For example, you know you’re not going to shoot things like nudity – not that I wanted to. This systematic shutdown of a point of view is unacceptable.” And she is 100% right.

That hasn’t stopped the film from receiving praise for pushing boundaries that are clearly uncomfortable for India’s Central Board of Film Certification, having won an Oxfam award for Best Film on Gender Equality at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival. The award is particularly poignant, as it focused on films that take on gender inequality issues and violence against women, being daring enough to talk about these difficult subjects and address them with the utmost fierceness. The head of Oxfam’s End Violence Against Women And Girls campaign, Bethan Cansfield, says that the organization stands by their decision to award the film for being strong, and that “violence against women and girls and gender inequality go hand in hand. These harmful social norms must be challenged and that’s what this film does.”

Have no fear though, as the decision made to ban it in India is hitting the internet and is giving the film even more power than before. Lipstick Under my Burkha will be shown a couple weeks from now, opening the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, on April 5th. It will also appear in the 2017 New York Indian Film Festival in May, according to Aseem Chhabra, the festival’s director. He has seen the film twice already and can’t wait to show it to his audience here in the States. Chhabra spoke about the Central Board, stating that “The Board has always been very regressive. For the longest time kissing was not allowed. It’s always been a reflection of the current political part that’s in power in India. So, heterosexual sex, men looking at women in bikinis, men making sexual jokes about women and the male gaze is okay but ‘lady orientated’, [or] whatever that means, is not.”

Shrivastava isn’t going to give up on her film and is “very determined to fight it out and see a theatrical release.” Some people have advised that she release the film to a digital medium, rather than in a physical theater, but she goes on to say “When you make a choice that you will not exhibit commercially, it’s one thing. But when you’re forced to do a digital release because the CBFC of India is not letting you release your film, it’s a completely different situation.”

Fight the power ladies. I personally cannot wait to get my hands on this film to see the strength a woman has when she’s simply trying to be herself.

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