Mohar Basu (MID-DAY; July 4, 2017)

Pahlaj Nihalani
Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha has won accolades in festival circuits, but back home, it has been mired in controversy since it first began hitting headlines. Unimpressed by the bold storyline, which follows four women across age groups, who rediscover themselves, as they search for freedom, the Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani had refused to certify the film.

Chronicling her journey of attempting to get her film in theatres, Shrivastava describes Nihalani’s behaviour as strange. “The Examining Committee was divided in its opinion, so, we approached the Revising Committee. Nihalani, who was present at the screening, made me feel like a criminal. Ideally, the CBFC committee and the director should sit across the table and discuss the concerns objectively. But, in India, your fate is declared like a judgment,” she tells mid-day, adding that the chief even refused to exchange pleasantries with her when she greeted him.

Nihalani left little scope for negotiation when he announced that it was ‘not a scene, but the whole film’ that concerned the committee, Shrivastava says. “He simply said, ‘we have made a unanimous decision that we won't certify it.’ His secretary slyly asked if I had anything to say, as though I must beg or plead with them. This cannot be how a free country functions.”

Pointing out that a director musn’t need to defend a film before the committee, Srivastava says, “The CBFC power structure is lopsided. Why do they get so personal and vindictive?” The filmmaker finds little merit in the reason that drives the committee’s decision. She claims that Nihalani refused to certify the Ekta Kapoor production because it expresses a “female point of view”, but adds that Indian cinema objectifies women anyway. “There’s enough sexualised content in Indian cinema, but it passes because it caters to men. Skimpily-clad women dance for men as the cameras follow their bodies, like the male gaze would. That’s the sort of content that’s a hit here. The culture we are creating is obnoxious. Even women are beginning to think as per patriarchal norms. Cinema and society work in a vicious cycle.”

A still from Lipstick Under My Burkha