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Feminism Around the World: Alankrita Shrivastava Fights Censorship of Her Film Lipstick Under My Burkha

Feminism Around the World India

Welcome to Feminism Around the World, a weekly feature here at TMS where we focus on women’s lives and feminist concerns around the world by applauding successes, reporting injustices, and amplifying the conversation around solutions to gender-based inequality. Because “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” – Teresa

lipstick

INDIA: Alankrita Shrivastava Fights Censorship of Her Film Lipstick Under My Burkha

Award-winning filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava has been getting accolades for her feminist feature film, Lipstick Under My Burkha. It won the Spirit of Asia Award at last year’s Tokyo Film Festival, the Oxfam Award for Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival, and it had its U.K. premiere last week at the Glasgow Film Festival.

This film is getting love everywhere…except in Shrivastava’s home country. India’s censor board has blocked the film coming to theaters by refusing to certify it at all, meaning that the film cannot be screened publicly anywhere in the country. Why have they done this? According to the censor board, the film is not “clean and healthy entertainment.” Check out the full letter the producers received on the film’s official Twitter feed:

Sooo, the “story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines.” You heard it here, folks. Women…and their fantasies….and their desire for sex is enough to get your film banned in India. Awesome.

In an interview with Women and Hollywood, she talks about the fact that denying certification outright is not common in India. Usually, the censors will ask for curse words to be *bleeped*, or for scenes to be cut. So, why have they focused in on this film? Shrivastava speculates:

Maybe it made them uncomfortable. They are not used to films that speak so honestly about women’s lives. They perhaps have a very patriarchal mindset and are used to only the regular popular cinema narrative maybe. But I think confronting honest thoughts, perspectives, and an intimate telling of female stories through a female point of view is something they were not prepared for. Maybe the idea that women can have desires too is a thought that unnerved them. That women are not there just to fulfill the needs of men.

But Shrivastava isn’t taking this lying down.

Luckily in India, there is a way forward. We will be applying to the [Film Certification Appellate] Tribunal (FCAT) in New Delhi to appeal against the refusal. Hopefully, the film will get cleared at that level. After that, one can also go to court. I am determined to fight this out till the end. I really want the Indian audience to be able to watch this film in theaters.

In India, the filmmaking community is quite keen to get rid of the concept of censorship itself. Everybody really just wants the Board of Film Certification (commonly known as the Censor Board) to just do its job of certifying films rather than cutting, banning, and censoring films. The film industry at large is quite united about this opinion. Now it is for the government to take this opinion into view and act upon it.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lipstick Under My Burkha “revolves around four Indian women, from ages 18 to 55, living in a small town who assert their personal and sexual rights.” Check out the trailer:

It looks really awesome! Here’s hoping that the fight of filmmakers in India will push the government into removing the archaic hoops films have to jump through to be seen. In the meantime, Shrivastava has the entire rest of the world to play with.


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