Swasti Chatterjee (BOMBAY TIMES; February 25, 2017)

The Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused to certify Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha on grounds of the plot being “lady-oriented, contains sexual scenes, abusive words, and audio pornography“. While Pahlaj Nihalani, chairman of CBFC, is firm on his stand about rejecting to certify it altogether, Konkona Sen Sharma, who has acted in the film, questions the guidelines that refuse to look at the fantasies of women.

Why are we becoming such an intolerant country?: Konkona Sen Sharma
An enraged Konkona Sen Sharma thinks that the decision to not certify the film is outright ridiculous. She says, “How can CBFC not certify the film at all? This is ridiculous. Is the film being rejected just because it deals with female fantasies? Most Indian films are about male fantasies - what about them? Now, if a film is made on women's sexuality, it is refused to be certified! It's a film for adults, and it should get an A certificate. We are not asking children to watch it. What I can't understand is its out right rejection. It is sad how adults have the right to vote, but not watch a film of their choice.“

Though the makers will be going to the tribunal for a reassessment, Konkona isn't hopeful. She says, “Any film that is not aspirational and deals with a part of dark reality is not approved by the board. Lipstick Under My Burkha is about four women from Bhopal and the strict codes of behaviour that they are supposed to follow. How are we supposed to portray these, if not the way we have shown in the film? Why are we becoming such an intolerant country? A peaceful seminar in Delhi University is opposed; a film that is slightly different from the usual is refused to be certified. Isn't this zor-zabardasti?“ she questions.

Despite the Shyam Benegal Committee submitting its report on modifying the role of the Board, there are no further develop ments on that front.The reason why the board still has the power to, certify films R according to its members' judgement is because of the existent guide lines. The actress asks, “What guidelines are we talking about? Whenever we question the board, they come up with the guidelines that they are supposed to follow. These guidelines do not make sense at all. They might have been made by a group of men. Women just don't feature in making rules. So, obviously, the board does not understand these films. Even the archaic homosexuality laws are made by men. And if they are archaic, they can be changed. We have to be more progressive as a society.“

No headway with the Shyam Benegal committee report
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who headed a committee that submitted reforms to change the functioning of the board, is 'surprised' that the CBFC has refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha. While he refused to comment on the reason behind this refusal, as he is yet to watch the film, he says, “We need to look at a lot of things. According to our report on the policy, such refusal could be contested. However, I cannot understand the present situation. I don't have any idea about what happened to the detailed report that we submitted. We submitted the reports in two parts - in April and October. We have suggested what the new structure should be like, but there has been no communication from the government yet.“

The Shyam Benegal Committee Report lays down a holistic approach towards the certification of films and incorporates creative and artistic freedom. The panel, headed by Shyam Benegal and consisting members like Kamal Haasan, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, ad-man Piyush Pandey, director Goutam Ghose and NFDC Managing Director Nina Lath Gupta, limits CBFC's role to only certifying films and categorising the suitability to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity. It also states that artistic expression and creative freedom should not be unduly curbed in the process of classification of films.