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Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)

| Drama | 2017 (India)
Set in the crowded by-lanes of small town India, Lipstick Under My Burkha chronicles the secret lives of four women in search of a little freedom. Though stifled and trapped in their worlds... See full summary »


(dialogue), (additional screenplay) | 2 more credits »
2 wins. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Plabita Borthakur
Sonal Jha
Aahana Kumra
Vikrant Massey
Mayur More ...
Michael jackson
Jagat Singh


Set in the crowded by-lanes of small town India, Lipstick Under My Burkha chronicles the secret lives of four women in search of a little freedom. Though stifled and trapped in their worlds, these four women claim their desires through small acts of courage and stealthy rebellion.

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Release Date:

2017 (India)  »

Also Known As:

Lipstick Waale Sapne  »

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The film was banned in early April 2017 by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), as board had refused to certify the film, terming it as 'lady oriented'. See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent message -- deserves to be seen by everyone
1 May 2017 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

My usual disclaimer: I am not Indian. I live near Washington DC. My wife and I have been watching Bollywood movies for over 10 years, and we see probably 20+ a year, + DVDs. I subscribe to Filmfare.

We've noticed a trend in Bollywood--a good trend. Women are shown as more independent and powerful. This is good! The director Maneesh Sharma is a great example of this -- all his movies feature strong, independent women. I met Maneesh several years ago, and he seemed like a great guy.

But there are still movies like Badrinath Ki Dulhania that are painful to watch. It made me cringe throughout at the treatment of women. It was an embarrassment to the Indian film industry, and in terms the director might understand, it brought shame upon him and the entire cast (see below).

So Lipstick under My Burkha was a welcome addition to feminist movies. The Indian censor board had the good sense to approve it, even if it was after an appeal. We saw it yesterday at the DC Film Festival, and the screening was almost sold out -- and Indians were a small minority of the audience.

The movie makes two points I completely agree with. I suspect some people will say that I am culturally biased, etc. etc. but I think this goes beyond that. There are certain things that are simply right and other things that are simply wrong. It doesn't matter what your culture is or where you come from. And things that might have been acceptable in 1300 or 1850 or even 1950 are not acceptable today. They should be condemned.

First, shame. The male characters in the movie use the word "shame" a lot -- "You will bring shame upon the family," etc. No one -- NO ONE -- can bring shame on you except you yourself. If you don't believe this, you need to wake up and change.

Second, human rights. I'm going to be shamelessly (joke) culturally bound and quote from that nice 18th century Enlightenment document, the US Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

They key idea here is that "rights" are NOT given to you by the government, a king, or your husband. They are given to you by God. And they are "unalienable" = they can't be changed or taken away -- by anyone, for any reason. So when a husband talks about "allowing" his wife to work or parents talk about "finding a husband" for their daughter, they are violating human rights. Again, if you don't believe this, you need to wake up and change.

The movie itself has an interwoven plot. Four women of different ages live in a "manzil" or block of buildings in Bhopal. A college student wears a burkha ordinarily, but changes into a T-shirt and jeans every day as soon as she gets to her college. Because she's been repressed so much, she has fantasies about boys. Because she is so inexperienced, she is vulnerable. She comes very close to disaster. The second woman is a wife and mother of three boys. Her husband works in Saudi Arabia and only comes home a few times a year. Somehow he is stupid enough to think that all the children are his. His wife works, secretly, for a department store as a saleswoman, and she is very good at her job. Her husband has a mistress, and the wife discovers this and confronts the mistress. The husband's reaction: "Why are you trying to embarrass me?" Again, let me repeat: his own actions should embarrass him. Not something his wife does. But he doesn't understand this. A third women is "modern" and fairly independent, but she is about to be married to a man she doesn't like. He wants her to live the rest of her life at home with his large family. That's her idea of Hell. She has a boyfriend, and together they try to earn money by photographing weddings. Eventually the finance finds out about the boyfriend, and again the idea that she has "shamed" him comes up. She walks away. Good for her! The fourth woman is a 52-year-old widow who lives with relatives in the manzil that she (they?) own. She reads racy romance novels and has fantasies about a young swimming coach. She gets up enough nerve to take swimming lessons from him, and after several unsuccessful attempts she gets him to have phone sex with her--but of course he doesn't know who she is. Eventually she is exposed, her family throws her into the street, and of course they say that she has "shamed" them.

What makes it a good movie, apart from the social message, is that each character is described in enough detail that you feel that you know them. They are not just stock characters, as in many movies: "the widow," "the slut," etc. The acting is first rate. And there are spots of humor scattered along the way. It's not all doom and gloom. It should be required watching -- and not just in India.

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