ALT Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions’ Lipstick Under My Burkha (A) is the story of four women from a small town, and their fantasies.
Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a widow, way past her prime. For the outside world, she is the lady with religious and ritualistic leanings but she reads erotica on the sly. She finds a swimming coach, Jaspal (Jagat Singh Solanki), who is probably half her age, very desirable and tries to woo him to fulfill her sexual desires. Shireen Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a married woman but her orthodox Muslim husband, Rahim (Sushant Singh), doesn’t love her or care for her feelings. He uses her as a sex machine and, on the sly, has an extra-marital affair. Leela (Aahana Kumra), being raised by her mother (Sonal Jha), is due to be married to a boy, Manoj (Vaibhav Tatwawdi), who is not of her choice. She loves Arshad (Vikrant Massey), who is a still photographer, and even indulges in sex with him after her engagement. Rehana Abidi (Plabita Borthakur) hails from an orthodox Muslim family but is wild in her thoughts. She wants to become a singer but her parents won’t hear anything of that. Despite family restrictions, Rehana drinks, smokes, wears sexy clothes and even has a boyfriend in Dhruv Bose (Shashank Arora).
The film traces the brief journeys of the four women who are unrelated to each other but whose paths meet at some point.
Alankrita Shrivastava’s story is bold yet depressing. Since all the four women don’t achieve what they desire, it leaves the audience dissatisfied. But the class audiences would appreciate the unusual and rather bold story and they would not really mind the fact that the four ladies have to ultimately resign to their respective fates and can’t be successful. The screenplay by Alankrita Shrivastava, with additional screenplay by Suhani Kanwar, is interesting in parts. However, the screenplay does not give the viewers a major high in spite of being so bold. And the reasons for this are varied. One doesn’t sympathise completely with Shireen because quite early on in the drama, one gets the feeling that she is a very smart lady, capable of having her way. Buaji’s character does not evoke sympathy because the viewers know that her sexual fantasies would never be fulfilled as her one-sided affair with the swimming coach rests on a foundation built on lies and deceit. No doubt, the elite audience would overlook the aforementioned ‘shortcomings’ but the masses wouldn’t. Likewise, in the case of Leela, the traditionally inclined viewers would find her sexcapades with the photographer, after her engagement with Manoj, unpardonable. But again, the city folk would have no such moral issues. Another major point about the drama is that there is no happy character in it, everyone is either unhappy or sad or depressed or bogged down by pressures of life or made a fool of. That may be the reality but a large chunk of the audience is used to watching films about happy people. This is one more point which dramatically reduces the film’s appeal to the elite and classes only.
Probably, the put-downer in a bold film like this is the climax in which the women are shown to have been unsuccessful in their quests. Even the class audience would’ve preferred a happier ending, given the nature of the drama. Having said that, it must be added that the audience which looks for realistic endings in films, would get what it wants in the climax. Gazal Dhaliwala’s dialogues are bold and complement the drama well enough.
Konkona Sen Sharma is excellent in a difficult role which she handles with the ease of a seasoned artiste. Ratna Pathak Shah is very good but does go overboard in a couple of scenes. Aahana Kumra is natural to the core and shines. Plabita Borthakur does a splendid job and lives the character of Rehana. Sushant Singh is simply remarkable and conveys a lot without having too many dialogues. Vikrant Massey is wonderful as the still photographer. Vaibhav Tatwawdi has his moments in the role of Manoj. Shashank Arora makes his presence amply felt with his realistic performance as Dhruv Bose. Jagat Singh Solanki (as swimming coach Jaspal) and Sonal Jha (as Leela’s mother) lend decent support.
Alankrita Shrivastava’s direction is mature. Zabunnisa Bangash’s music and Anvita Dutt’s lyrics go well with the film’s mood. Background music (by Mangesh Dhadke) is fair. Ranjit Dev’s choreography is functional. Cinematography (by Akshay Singh) is praiseworthy. Vikram Singh’s production designing is appropriate. Charu Shree Roy’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Lipstick Under My Burkha is bold and will be liked by the class audience. Its appeal is restricted and it will do well in select multiplexes of the big cities.