Sometimes I wonder if I should call the CBFC a cultural and primitive cow, or the infamous elephant in the room that people are turning a blind eye to. I could also call the board a chameleon because its head certifies films at whim. As someone who has produced an Anil Kapoor starrer Andaaz 1994, in which he sings about his erection, it is quite laughable when this producer (now the CBFC chairman) has problems with vaginas. By asserting that women having/desiring sex as unnatural or worth a ban, has the board shoved its proverbial feet into its vacuous mouth? Because pray do tell me, who are heterosexual men having sex with then?
My guess is we will never run out of things to call the board when their collective intellectual capacity is a sum of 1.71 brain cells.
In a country like India when everyday lives of women are being stifled, and films still prefer to showcase the dichotomous damsel in distress and an object of desire, it comes as no surprise that despite having a colossal audience abroad, Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ is not getting its certification at home. However, when men make films about women by dressing it up in a frilly, pink frock, with their paltry, ignominious and misguided worldview, the CBFC hasn’t had any problems. Such crude mentality could only have originated in a room full of old men, who probably think out of their rear and drink cow urine for refreshment.
Contrary to popular belief that the number of women making films is on the rise, I would urge the people who make such claims to turn to history. According to me, the gap is only widening. If in the past there were five women for every 50 filmmakers, having 100 women for every 5000 filmmakers is not exactly progress. What’s worse, when women make films, the universe is up in arms at every step of the process. We know that the morbid tales of women not finding a producer or distributor for a script that is too “lady oriented” are one too many. Despite such Brobdingnagian hardships, women persist and try to push out scripts and stories by making one little crack in the ceiling at a time.
I contacted Alankrita to hear her views on the irony of a film being eligible for Golden Globe without its country’s certification and the precedent it sets for upcoming filmmakers who wish to make films on women’s sexuality. She said: “I think as young filmmakers we should continue on our path of making the films we believe in. I am certain that our commitment and sincerity and single-minded dedication will open up the way forward. We have to be courageous and unafraid. And we have to claim the freedom of expression that the Constitution promises us.”
It is quite fitting that a fine filmmaker like Alankrita embodies such clarity of thought and consistency in her fight for rights because it is no joke to have your film screened all over the world and have people unanimously raving about it. Here’s a list of festivals in which ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ has been screened so far and the respective awards it has won:
1) World Premiere – Tokyo International Film Festival
Winner, Spirit of Asia Prize.
2) India Premiere – Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival
Winner, Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality
3) UK Premiere – Glasgow International Film Festival
Winner, Audience Award Best Film
4) Netherlands Premiere – CinemAsia Film Festival Amsterdam
Winner, Best Feature Audience Choice
5) France Premiere – Films des Femmes Creteil, Paris
Winner, Grand Jury Prize, Best Feature Film
Winner, Best Film
Winner, Standout Performance, Ratna Pathak Shah
7) Ohio Premiere – Cleveland International Film Festival
In Competition, Best Female Director
8) LA Premiere – Indian International Film Festival, Los Angeles
Official Hollywood Foreign Press Association Screening (making the film eligible for the Golden Globes)
9) Europe Premiere – Stockholm International Film Festival
10) Estonia Premiere – POFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia
11) Africa Premiere – Cairo International Film Festival
Festival of Festivals Section
12) North America Premiere – Miami International Film Festival
13) Dallas Premiere – Dallas International Film Festival
14) Greece Premiere – Greek National film Archive, Special screening of Women’s Films: Tribute to Women
15) Hawaii Premiere – Hawaii International Film Festival (Spring Showcase)
1) New York Premiere – New York Indian Film Festival
2) Washington Premiere – Washington International Film Festival
3) Minnesota Premiere – St. Paul’s international Film Festival, Minneapolis
4) Austin Premiere – IndiMeme Film Festival
These are merely the number of screenings planned until April 30th. “There are several others I can’t mention because they have not been officially announced yet”, says Alankrita. The irony of Indian cinema and the history of Golden Globes is that there is just one other woman filmmaker who made it (twice) to the nominations ever (of the four Indian nominations in total), Mira Nair for Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Weddings in 1988 and 2001 respectively. Alankrita now has an amazing opportunity to campaign for the Golden Globes should she so desire to submit her film for nominations.
In its statement, the CBFC said the “story is lady oriented” and “their fantasy above life”. It also said that the film had “contanious (sic) sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography” and I can’t stop wondering about just a tiny little anomaly in it. If we remove the words “lady oriented”, I dare you to name one film that does not contain one or more of the stated objections, keeping in mind that the Masti series were given certification for not just one, but three atrociously female objectifying films. Now tell me, did it win any award or just the hearts of the panel watching and certifying these films?
Dear Pahlaj Nihalani, is it up to you/CBFC to decide what constitutes as pornography, or are you simply a saffron dipped hypocrite establishment that has a preference for double entendre songs that talk about male erections?