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The Female Gaze Makes CBFC Uncomfortable #Censorship

 Alankrita Shrivastava

Despite being denied a Censor Board certificate, filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava’s feminist film Lipstick Under My Burkha has been winning laurels in the film fraternity. “I feel if the intention of the board is to discourage people like me for making films like these, then they’ve failed. I am not going to change the kind of films I want to make. I want to continue making ‘lady-oriented films’,” Alankrita told PTI.

While such denial would easily make any fimmaker step back from portraying similar subjects in future, Alankrita said, “I feel they (board) have been honest in stating that feminism makes them uncomfortable, the female point of view, the female gaze makes them uncomfortable. They have just stated this clearly.”

The CBFC had refused to certify this film because it apparently conveys a wrong message to youngsters because of its ‘lady-oriented’ content and also that the “abusive words” and plotline could “spoil the female sex”.  Yes sir, watching movies like ‘Mastizaade’ where women are constantly ridiculed and objectified are so accurate for our healthy mind. So who would like to watch a women-centric film that rebels against the stereotypes?


Prakash Jha’s ’Lipstick Under My Burkha follows the story of four women, who live in small-town Bhopal and challenge the boundaries of reinforced patriarchy. The film explores aspects of femininity which are often hidden. Shrivastava’s film stars Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabitha Borthakur.


Alankrita blames the board for feeling threatened by the feminist content and argues that it is not the issue of “sexual content”.  According to her, the board didn’t give nod because of the fact that the women characters in the film take charge of their sexuality — and that scares them  and most of the Indians.

“What is making them uncomfortable is that women feel that they are not fulfilled in these conventional relationships. That threatens the patriarchal order of society. It’s not the sexual content which is bothering them, it is the fact of women claiming agency over their own sexuality,” Alankrita Shrivastava

Alankrita further said that the board, including most of us, are scared of such strong films where women voice their desires. “What is very scary is that this is a legitimate body, responsible for certifying films… in the sense of being moral guardians for the Indian audience, for them to so brazenly make a statement, which is a direct assault on the rights of women to express themselves, is scary,” she said.

CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani may have stopped the film from hitting theatres in India, but couldn’t hold this film back from winning hearts worldwide. “I think the CBFC is not at all reflecting the Indian citizen of 2017. As an adult, if you can vote, you should be considered mature enough to choose which film you want to or don’t want to watch. CBFC making such statements is off-track and completely patriarchal, regressive and illogical,” Alankrita argued.

When the board compared the film with “pornography”, Alankrita ridiculed them saying, “There is no nudity in the film. Refusing to certify the film by blaming sexual content is telling. They have certified so many films which have sexual content. The camera in item numbers mindlessly goes up and down a woman’s body with crass lyrics which have no connection with the story. But if there’s that kind of cinema, there should be an even playing field.”

Now the makers have filed an appeal against the CBFC’s decision in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which is pending as on 27 March.

WATCH the trailer here:

The controversial film has now won the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature at the CinemAsia 10th edition and very recently took home the Grand Jury Prize At Films De Femmes held in France.


1 Comment

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  1. The censor board is working arbitrarily

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