fbpx
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What women want

The film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ gets applause for its frank portrayal of female sexuality

Reading Time: 2 minutes
“Let’s at least have sex?”
This is one of my favourite moments from Lipstick Under My Burkha, this year’s most ‘controversial’ Indian film.
Leela, a young beautician who is being forced into an arranged marriage, has snuck over to her moody boyfriend’s house in the middle of the night, where he is sleeping with some young boy relatives. They go into the bathroom to have sex, argue, and the boyfriend, Arshad (played by Vikrant Massey), makes to leave in the middle. That’s when Leela asks her question, panting and unsatisfied.
Arshad’s answer encapsulates, in all its ugliness, just what Indian women face when it comes to expressing sexual desire.
“Is that all you want? Sex?” He spits. He then yells that he’ll bring the two sleeping boys in if that’s what she’s after. In one moment, he’s made her lust, her urge, her natural sex drive, into something perverted, unnatural.
Why has Lipstick been called ‘controversial?’
Because it tells us that Indian women want to have sex.
It’s nothing more, and nothing less. 
It shouldn’t be revolutionary, and it certainly shouldn’t be revelatory, but that’s exactly what it has become. Indian women want to have sex, and that is too shocking a fact not to stir up a ruckus.
It may have been banned for being too “lady-oriented”, but the fact is, what that really translates to is, “no male gaze”. Forsooth!
Because Lipstick tells us, rightly, that sexual repression and freedom from patriarchy go hand-in-hand. Four women, of an assortment of ages and lifestyles, is each shown playing out her own relationship with sexuality and oppression.
The youngest, Rehana (Plabita Borthakur), is a college student who breaks free of the burkha forced on her by her parents, and has her first brush with love, lust and heartbreak.
Leela the beautician (Aahana Kumra) is caught between obedience to her single-parent mother, her fun and sexually satisfying relationship with Arshad, and the nagging sense that she shouldn’t have to choose between having fun and being poor and disrespectable.
Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a secret door-to-door sales superstar, but has to grimly endure nightly rape from her emotionless, lazy pig of a husband.
And finally, Usha (Ratna Pathak), called ‘Buaji’ by everyone in town, known as an upright ‘elderly’ widow who runs her family business with a firm hand, begins to have secret and highly pleasurable phone sex with her hot young swimming instructor, with devastating consequences.
I suspect those who find the film underwhelming simply don’t understand what the fuss is about. But that’s exactly the point.
To be an Indian feminist woman, even one living in the diaspora, and to watch Lipstick, is to feel like a breath has been released. One that has been held for a very, very long time.
Women want sex. Good, consensual, pleasurable sex.
And they want it because it feels good.

- Advertisement -
Avatar
Aparna Ananthuni
Aparna is an aspiring writer of historical fiction and fantasy for young adults and children. She also loves reading, drawing and Indian classical music, and often develops strange obsessions like typewriter-collecting.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Podcasts

Ep8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s life

0
To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Ep 6: The Indian LGBTQ+ community in 2020

0
  It’s been two years since the world’s largest democracy repealed the draconian Section 377 which used to allow discrimination against homosexual people. Only this...

Latest News

AUSvIND: Battered India pull off greatest Test series win of all...

0
  Ten first-choice players unavailable or injured for at least part of the series, including the talismanic captain who happens to be the best player....
dhoni, rishabh pant, rohit sharma, tim paine, r ashwin, stump mic moments, ashwin sledging, sledging, funny moments, stump mic teasing

Candid convos caught by stump mics

0
  A lot of the time cheeky stump mics catch candid conversations on the pitch that become immortalised on Youtube. Here are some of those...
cheteshwar pujara

WATCH: Pujara puts his body on the line at the Gabba

0
  A battered and bruised Indian cricket team is soldiering on as the final day of the 4th cricket test match goes to a thrilling...

Biryani Bonanza: 3 delicious recipes to try this Republic Day

0
  Talk about biryanis, and you’ll encounter way too many FAQs. Do you cook the rice and meat separately, or together? Do you use the...
curry and rice

“Stop cooking curry”: when neighbours complain about ‘smelly’ Indian food

0
  When 29-year-old Vaibhav Pokhriyal moved into his new apartment in Dee Why, he never would’ve guessed what a stir (no pun intended) his cooking...