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Lipstick Under My Burkha Review (2017) | Hidden Lives Behind Societal Veils

Bold and ballsy! Lipstick Under My Burkha was already narrating a dozen brave tales via its revolting moniker. The good news is this movie is a perfect paragon of it. It is the second big screen project as a director for Alankrita Shrivastava and she delivers it to perfection. She has also written the story for Lipstick Under My Burkha. It is a complete joyride of ups and downs in the lives of four trapped souls who are trying to breathe six feet under societal expectations.

The actors Aahana Kumra, Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma and Plabita Borthakur do a fabulous job playing their respective characters evoking plenty of pathos. You can’t help but feel sorry for them. The fact that it lets you feel so is an achievement per se. The intent of the movie is to bring awareness and to leave it at that. That’s what we find the movie trying to say it loud.

Fuels Women Empowerment

Lipstick Under My Burkha is yet another exemplary product of parallel cinema that shows you the plight of different types of women trapped in a thriving secular community.  In a patriarchal society of India, women are yet to find their ground even though they have been fighting for it in hushed voices. It’s a voice that fails to scream for the fear of being blemished or the fear of upending the lives of all those who are rooted in them.

India is yet to register women as souls worthy of equal rights. It is a shameful picture that the movie so gorgeously paints. It forces us to acknowledge the blunt display of hypocrisy when Indian constitution dictates one thing whilst people shackled by their cultural chauvinism turn their faces away.

The picture takes the form of “things you do not do in plain sight”. If you pay attention that’s what the title of the movie too dictates. It is a metaphor for things that women are forced to hide under what seems as their societal idea of a veil. They have turned their cultural veil into a place under which they could hide, titillate and water their aspirations from.

All these veiled things are reflections of what women have been reduced to. They are stealing things to buy themselves a dream, they have dreams they wish to pursue but their lives have been upended by forced marriage, they are really good at something that they can’t pursue because it might make their husbands feel bad about it, and they have sexual needs at an old age which the society deems as outright criminal and unacceptable.

Stories of Lipstick Under My Burkha Movie

There are four storylines running parallel in Lipstick Under My Burkha. They intertwine under one roof and whenever they do, they are always beaming. But when they are out in the open, in the field, where the real action is, that’s where life gets shitty.

Rehana (Spoilers Ahead)

Rehana is a young college girl with her own aspirations and dreams. She is shown stealing products using her Burkha as a veil that security doesn’t mess around with. But these products are all tokens that she thinks will help her get there. She has become so numb in her life that conscience eludes her. Blame it on the way she has been forced to live like. Her life has been reduced to a mere diatribe when she’s home. Her parents are strict maniacs who impose their idea of living on her poor shoulders. She has an idea of herself that she lives when she is in college. She too wants to be cool (copies Miley Cyrus) wishes to live unfettered. And all that revolt becomes evident when she distorts her identity at both places.

still of Plabita Borthakur as Rehana in Lipstick Under My Burkha

Shashank Arora who plays Dhruv in the movie becomes her love interest. That angle of her senior getting pregnant was a dispensable addition to her story to show that Dhruv wasn’t the right guy for her. It contrasts with her getting into trouble with all the stealing.

Shirin

Shirin plays a saleswoman when her husband isn’t looking. She is good at the job and she knows it but there’s only one thing she fears the most – her husband (Sushant Singh). Shirin’s husband forces himself upon her every night despite there being complications with Shirin’s body. His blunt disregard of her wants plays an ugly symphony that a lot of men in the country still hum to. For instance, not using a condom for sex just because it takes away the pleasure, overlooking the price, of course, something helpless women end up paying.

She wishes to be something in her life, also to take care of her family but she can’t do that unless her husband approves. So she lives this hidden life trying to earn some money on the sides to support her family during hard times. When matters become worse when her husband begins to see another woman, and she tries to confront him, surprisingly we see the hubby still winning. You can’t help but feel immensely sorry for her. What has she become in her exercise to please her husband? She has become a man’s mere plaything and is tossed around like an ungrateful choice. It is really shattering to watch her plight.

Leela

Another aspirational tale comes from the perspective of Leela the wildling who has dreamt of a plan alongside a photographer (Vikrant Massey). They don’t leave out an opportunity to have sex ever, even though she is promised to some other man as part of an arranged situation. Though deliberately put to have some fun, her life is a tumble in her eyes as she is being sent off. The photographer boyfriend is the only good thing that closes in on her dream to make it big, but that too begins to slip away with the arrival of a new man in her life.

The angle of her mother posing nude for painters seemed like a stretch for the tale although it tried to swing in a deeper meaning to how she too had a secret of her own. That she needed all the money and there was nothing else she could do about. Being a widow she too had expectations but stranded at a juncture with a judgmental society that doesn’t eye you good when you are trying to get back on the saddle had left her no choice.

Leela ends up getting sandwiched between both the men in her life, who both end up leaving her in a theatrical display of emotions. Vikrant once again does a brilliant job especially after his extraordinary performance in A Death in the Gunj movie that released last month.

Usha

One of the most fun elements of the tale is brought to you by Ratna Pathak’s character Usha. Her diegesis as she reads a cheap sex thriller for most of the parts of the movie gradually gives us an insight on her life. Ratna Pathak nails her role as Usha who falls in love with a swimming trainer. It is that part of her life that she is ashamed to share with the world and hence creates another identity, the one that comes straight from the book Rosie. Fancying the trainer and fantasizing him based on the story she reads, she calls him up with ulterior motives.

Her life in the limelight as the powerful Buaji is the one that is impactful and is revered everywhere. She gets things done around the house. But it is also in perfect contrast with the one she ends up becoming every night. She becomes this vulnerable woman who has her needs to satiate.

With a bit of misunderstanding, and a series of bad luck Usha’s secret comes out in the open. And like a suitcase that’s too packed up to hold clothes in, her life upends out in the open losing all its reverence in a matter of seconds. People who used to respect her for what she stood, instead of understanding her, end up throwing her out of the house.

Final Bit in Lipstick Under My Burkha

The final scene is like a time of the reckoning for all the women although the movie ends leaving everything that might happen or might not for viewer’s imagination. We see all these revolting women or the women who had been leading a double life all this time, come at one place, smoking (a sign of being rebellious), trying to piece together torn pages of Usha’s secret books. All those words reflect on those dreams they couldn’t get to sew.

The only problem with that scene being, people other than Usha seem to know the story too which is like one major issue with the movie. Rehana reacts as if she knew the story well, on being asked to read the ending, as she drops in a line to make Usha understand what the end meant. Other than that the movie holds taut at all junctures.

still of Konkana Sen Sharma in Lipstick under my Burkha

I liked the way Lipstick Under My Burkha ends too, leaving all the threads open. Will the women remain bound by what society asks of them, or will they choose to fly free. It is a question that we have the answer to. These ladies are all currently living examples in the Indian society. So many dreams crushed, so many lives lived, and we know only a gist of it, and that too from Alankrita’s movie. So what’s it’s gonna be?

The Final Verdict

Lipstick Under My Burkha has been brilliantly presented. The story of the four protagonists is created such so as to reflect the lives of women in the country. The movie leaves a lot of things for viewer imagination in the end, but ends perfectly at a climactic point.

India is prudish when it comes to matters related to sex, and the movie’s got plenty. It flows unabashed to make a point, and the point resounds well. Even though the image of women plight is gradually changing all thanks to cinema and media, I think it would take more than an era for things to start making a difference. But it’s a great start and it’s all such intelligent efforts that count in the end.

Do not miss this movie for the world! Let the change, change you.

You can check out the trailer of Lipstick Under My Burkha here:

 

A Death in the Gunj Review (2017) | Diary of the Neglected

Konkana Sen Sharma’s debut A Death in the Gunj is a beautiful take of the neglected. It is so realistic and uncontrived that it makes you wonder why Konkana didn’t pick up direction in the first place. There was a director in her all this time, and it is so darn good that it instantly places her amongst the elite.

A Death in the Gunj also gives us an opportunity to see the very talented Late Om Puri onscreen once again. His acting is so relatable that it makes you miss him even more, now that he is gone. To constitute the primal plot of the movie, we have a family trying to spend a week’s holiday at their parent’s in a small town in Jharkhand. The backdrop is set in the year 1979 and Konkana Sen does a fine job to bring that period feel to it.

Direction of A Death in the Gunj

Whilst the Indian Film Industry is abounding with bad directors, it is going through a hopeful change. People are getting more focused towards making serious movies, and the educated audience has been responding well too. There are talented budding young directors showing up every month or so, who have their eyes set on parallel cinema to helm really good movies, and they are doing a fine job at that too. With people like Konkana Sen Sharma, that hope further solidifies making us cocksure of this revolution.

She started her career as an actor, which gives her an upper hand to witness story building up close. I am so glad that she has taken up all the good things. Her direction literally screams about her genius. She is outright brilliant for a feature film debutant. Her frames roll with a purpose, and she doesn’t omit the essential minutia worth capturing. Few minutes in her movie and you can feel the beautiful direction literally oozing out.

Konkana pays apt attention to the build up, giving us a proper insight into the story, introduces the main plot gradually unfurling it just how it is supposed to be. I think she needs to keep on directing. She is going to become a great director.

Plot of A Death in the Gunj Movie (Spoilers Ahead)

Death in the Gunj starts with a prologue of two people recklessly and unfeelingly talking about a dead body, so we know there’s a murder on the cards. It builds up its fair amount of suspense as it lets us introduce ourselves with the characters first.

It is a family who is visiting their parent’s Anupama Bakshi (Tanuja Mukherjee) and O.P. Bakshi (Om Puri) to spend their holidays. We have Gulshan Devaiah as Nandu who is the angry guy calling shots, Tillotama Shome playing his wife, Kalki Koechlin as Mimi and a litte one Tani played by Arya SharmaVikrant Massey plays the young protagonist Shutu as the cousin of Nandu. We also have Jim Sarbh playing Brian and Ranvir Shorey playing Vikram as Nandu’s two childhood friends.

vikrant massey in a death in the gunj movie

Shutu is always the butt of the joke, being younger, gullible and vulnerable. He is pranked upon, scolded and scorned by everyone. What the family forgets is his tendency to feel unloved in a place that is smothering him every second. And all of that begins to take shape owing to just one week of family time.

Shutu’s Mindset

Shutu is still trying to get over his dead father, wearing his father’s sweater all the time, crying himself to sleep. His pitiable emotional state is considered as a childish behaviour by Nandu who frowns upon him all the time. At one point he even hits him while teaching him how to drive.

Tani being the youngest is the only company he enjoys. They spend time together trying to pass time in a place that doesn’t have anything for entertainment. Shutu is constantly condescended by Vikram and Nandu who never miss out the opportunity to boss him around.

He has lied about his results to Anupama, who goes on to figure it out through a mail from Shutu’s mother. Shutu wishes to be away from home, and is going through a real hard time. But to fuel that fire we have this family constantly nagging him into doing things.

Mimi is in love with Vikram who is now married. She tries to rekindle the spark but fails to do that ending up drunk one night, and then having sex with Shutu playing him as a rebound guy. Shutu, too young to understand the situation, ends up falling for her hoping to continue the fling. He is rejected in an abject sense of disregard.

The Lost Soul

With hopes to win Mimi, he ends up overlooking Tani at one point. Tani becomes furious and ends up getting lost somehow. As Nandu and Shutu go into the woods to locate Tani, Shutu becomes a victim to a trap. Nandu ends up driving away leaving Shutu in a pit without even bothering to check for him.

Spending hours in the pit in the precarious woods, Shutu is discovered by their servant who then helps him out. On returning Shutu realizes Tani has been found and on seeing everybody on the dining table unbothered by his plight, it hurts him a lot. He goes to apologize to Tani, the only person he cared about in the whole house, but she refuses to talk to him as well.

Shutu realizes nobody cares about him. He feels like a neglected soul, constantly being hammered by the family, pushed around to get their own job done. Owing to all this neglectful buildup, he ends up taking his own life. It is hands down one of the saddest bits in the flick.

Evoking Pathos

A Death in the Gunj compels you to relate to the character. It evokes a sense of poignancy. It will have you thinking for hours about the neglect Shutu faces all along. And it isn’t just one person to blame for that, but the entire family. Sometimes we get so lost in our lives that we forget to pay attention to the people who need it the most.

The height is when in an attempt to find Tani the family forgets entirely about Shutu. His encounter with a wolf, the very paragon of death itself who chooses to leave him alone (nobody kicks a dead dog), is so beautifully captured that you feel like showering all the love to the poor fellow. And when he returns nobody bothers to even ask where he was, and in what perilous fate he had found himself in. They were busy dining forgetting him unknowingly.

shutu in a death in the gunj movie

It is just downright terrible what humans could do by simply being themselves.

There is one remark by Tani who is busy reading names on their family tree and wonders why Shutu’s name is not there. I loved how in the end Konkana decided to let his blood paint that same tree as if finally Shutu too makes it there by being dead.

You can watch the movie from here:

Minor Issues

A Death in the Gunj has this strange thrilling vibe to it that belies its original theme. For a second the movie has you duped into believing that it is a semi-horror flick. But you realize that it isn’t what it tries to sell through the trailers. It is something more entirely.

If the writers were keen on hiding whose death we were going to see in the end, I think it became quite clear in the prologue itself. While some couldn’t guess it by the vague frames, it was easy for the rest to crack the code. The sense of neglect Shutu faces even when he was sitting in the car, gave it away that he was nothing but a ghost sitting behind, looking at his drivers and wondering how could be a person still be so arrogant and neglectful towards him even after death.

The Final Verdict

I think A Death in the Gunj is a profound gem that needs to be celebrated. All of the characters in the movie did a fabulous job playing their roles with conviction. You can’t even sense a teensy flaw in their acting. They are absolutely natural in their ways.

The movie is really deep for a thriller and shouldn’t be placed in that genre, I feel. It keeps you constantly rooted, lets you enjoy all the family letting you relate to its characters. The movie also becomes successful in making you feel extremely sorry for its protagonist for ending up in such colossal sense of abandonment.

It makes you question your actions and tries to make a bold point of keeping your eyes open for people who need your love. Every soul needs your attention and you shouldn’t get so much lost in your life that you forget to notice fragile living beings around.

Konkana Sen Sharma has proven herself to be extraordinary with the camera. I hope we get to see more of her films in the long run.

Check out our other Indian Cinema Reviews too.

Check out the trailer of A Death in the Gunj here: