Lipstick Under My Burkha is the latest victim of the CBFC’s scissors. No, no particular scene or dialogue from the film was objected to, the Central Board of Film Certification refused to certify the entire film. The reasons cited by the CBFC include ‘lady-oriented’, ‘sexual scenes, abusive words and audio pornography’ among others. In a candid interview with Koimoi, producer Prakash Jha talks about the CBFC’s decision which reflects the mindset of the male-dominated society and its hypocrisy, his reaction after receiving the letter from CBFC and how it is time that we stopped talking about gender-based equality and started practicing it…
As a filmmaker, how do you see the issue of censorship in films?
I have always faced this problem. When you make a guideline and give power to somebody to interpret that guideline, the person’s individuality, his understanding of the society, his opinion, his interpretation comes into play. That’s why I have been urging for the last 10 years to stop this process of censoring. Only certification should be there. Why should somebody be given the power to decide what the society can or cannot watch, wear or eat? Their name is Central Board of Film Certification but they have been given the power of censorship. Unless and until this power is removed, they will continue to do this. When the citizens of India have the freedom to change the government and administration, a film is a very small thing! Unfortunately, the male-dominated society has a problem every time a woman tries to take a decision. They don’t bother if she is studying, working and earning, their only concern is with her decision-making. A woman is born to serve a man, to satisfy him, to make him happy, she has no right to even talk about her satisfaction, her sexuality— that is the mindset everywhere, be it Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or any state.
What is the film about?
Lipstick Under My Burkha is a small film about four women- their thoughts, dreams, satisfaction and imagination. The film has nothing obscene— no nudity or cleavage shot. It is all about the female point of view. The male dominated society and its interpreters cannot tolerate this female point of view and hence call it a ‘lady-oriented’ film.
Were you anticipating such a decision from the CBFC?
No! I was so excited after reading the script. I was excited when the film was made. Alankrita (Shrivastava) is a responsible girl and has not made an attempt to commercialize anything.
Is the CBFC creating more troubles for the past couple of years?
No! This problem was always there. They troubled me during my other films like Rajneeti, Aarakshan and Chakravyuh. They keep troubling me. Is this the first time I’m having to visit the tribunal? I went there even for Jai Gangaajal. Their mentality is like that only.
What is a solution to this problem?
Stop it altogether! Stop censoring, only keep certification. That’s the simple solution! If you are not satisfied with an ‘Adult’ rating, push it further; make a separate ‘lady-oriented’ section, where a film will be certified as ‘lady-oriented’. I don’t have a problem with such a certificate.
What was your reaction after reading the CBFC’s letter?
I started laughing. What else could I do?
What do you have to say about the Shyam Benegal Committee?
It was a good initiative on behalf of the government. The BJP government at least thought about us. I would urge the government to change the system as soon as possible.
Would you call it the hypocrisy of society as a whole?
Of course! That is the mindset. They don’t realize that the world has moved on, that it has also begun to celebrate the success of two pehelwan girls. People in the Censor Board also cannot understand this. Just a handful of young generation urban women have the liberty to talk about their sexuality to their partners, however, that is not the case with their rural counterparts! Has the film won so many awards without any reason? Every kind of audience— Asian, African, European, American are praising it.
But people in India are not being able to watch it. What would you say about that?
They will watch for sure. I am not worried about that at all. I wake up every morning praying to God for some barrier to arrive in my path. What is the fun in life’s journey if you are able to move smoothly?
What is your opinion about films made from a woman’s perspective?
I feel more such films should be made. The whole idea behind this film is that we should start talking about it. Only when we start talking about this aspect of the man-woman relationship, things will ease down. We teach girls right from childhood to fear men. Imagine a society where young boys will be advised not to step out of their homes after sunset due to the fear of women! That change is needed in our society where nobody needs to fear anyone. We should not just talk about equality but start practicing it. When a film tries to portray that, it’s obvious that some people will not be able to accept it. I tried to do this long back with my film Mrityudand (1997).
Do you find the CBFC’s reasons behind denying to certify the film weird?
I didn’t properly understand what they are trying to convey through such terms. I feel even they did not understand. (Laughs)
Lipstick Under My Burkha has been produced by Prakash Jha and directed by his long time assistant Alankrita Shrivastava. The movie stars Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur and Sushant Singh among others.