Four Coats Of Fabulous
Four ordinary women, inflicted by silly societal norms, have to steal, lie, cheat and hide in order to lead the lives that they rightfully deserve.
In the final moments of Lipstick Under My Burkha, as the four protagonists face the explosive consequences of their perceived rebellions, we hear firecrackers bursting in the background. Director Alankrita Shrivastava uses the backdrop of Diwali to tell us that the lives of these women may be going up in flames, but they’ll go out with a bang.
It is with this skilled assuredness that she tells the stories of her heroines: Shireen (Konkona) is bogged down by a chauvinistic husband who only wants to hump her mechanically, but she finds her release in her day job; Leela (Aahana) uses sex to live out her fantasies and manipulates her men; Rihana (Plabita) is cloaked in her burkha, but dreams of ripped jeans, bad boys and Miley Cyrus’s brand of liberation and Usha (Ratna) has been deemed asexual owing to her age, but hides erotic books in religious tomes — both ushering her to (different types of) climaxes in her life.
What is so scandalous (or “lady-oriented”) about the lives of these women, is unclear. In fact, Shrivastava’s bravest act is simply opening the doors and showing us what goes on behind them. Behind the closed doors of a conservative Muslim girl’s room, where she dances sans music to let out the rage; behind the closed doors of a couple’s bedroom, where the woman is supposed to be a latent victim to her husband’s libido; behind the closed doors of a girl’s beauty salon, where intimate advice is doled out as smoothly as the underarm hair is waxed off and behind the closed doors of an older woman’s bathroom where she runs a tap to muffle the moans of her desires.
The women portraying these lives on screen give Lipstick… its true color. Plabita and Aahana are instantly relatable and light up the screen. Konkona’s helplessness makes you think about every woman who is a second-class citizen in her own home. And Ratna’s infatuated Usha, a woman in the throes of passion, will make you look at older women in a new light.
While cinematographer Akshay Singh uses tight close-ups in cramped spaces to make you claustrophobic, Gazal Dhaliwal’s lines range from hilarious innuendos in seedy novels to out-of-character outbursts of frustrated women.
A line from Zebunnisa Bangash-Anvita Dutt’s well-placed song Le Li Jaan goes, “12 takke byaaj pe, hassi hai udhar ki,” and the notion of this taxed independence is what defines the movie perfectly. Lipstick… may not drastically change things for women, but it’ll certainly smudge a few boundary lines.