The Hawa Mahal, where the four women in Alankrita Shrivasatava’s ‘Lipstick Under my Burkha’ reside, is as airy as it gets. Yet, behind closed doors, these women make frantic efforts to knead out the very last bit if life that is left in them, and try hard not to get stifled, strangled or choked.
To me, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is a story of extremes, in that the men in it are mercilessly forced into compartments that leave them as nothing but monsters who are sadistic, chauvinistic, brutal, perverse, vicious, heartless, insensitive and unbelievably cold.
That said, of the four tales, two strike an immediate chord – that of Usha buaji (Ratna Phatak doing a Doris Miller from the adorable ‘Hello My Name is Dorris’), who keeps reading soft porn and ends up having telephone sex with her swimming instructor, and of Shireen Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma), who is repeatedly assaulted in bed by her husband who wouldn’t hear of wearing a condom.
The other two, especially the one that has an aspiring pop singer under a burkha (Plabita Borthakur), and that of Leela (Aahana Kumra) who is taken aback when her mom drops a surprise marriage bomb on her, are shockingly formulaic, as impossible as it might sound.
And there are the stellar moments that appear in flashes, like the young hand that reaches out to help a terrified buaji on to the escalator, or the moment that has Shireen munching her freshly baked chocolate cake, with tearms streaming down her cheeks. At times audacious, edgy and insightful and at others, settling for some very mundane feminist ideology, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ settles for much less than it should actually have.
Verdict: Mixed Bag