Lipstick Under My Burkha

An unflinching drama observing the depths of women’s suffering in contemporary Indian society.

Film Review by Rachel Bowles | 21 Feb 2017
  • Lipstick Under My Burkha
Film title: Lipstick Under My Burkha
Director: Alankrita Shrivastava
Starring: Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra
Certificate: 12

In Old Bhopal, India, four very different women’s lives are tacitly interwoven in Alankrita Shrivastava’s award winning festival hit, Lipstick Under My Burkha, a wistful dramedy that unflinchingly observes the depths of women’s suffering in contemporary Indian society. The title refers to Muslim university student Rehena’s exciting, dangerous act of shoplifting a luxury scarlet lipstick – a small, irresistible rebellion against patriarchy, conservatism and capitalism, crucially an act she masks by manipulating societal misogyny.

All the women of Shrivastava’s film play with the eponymous red lipstick, with Lipstick making a powerful statement about the centrality of women’s gaze in attempts at autonomy in a consumerist society that both fetishises and loathes female bodies.

Unbelievably only her sophomore feature, Shrivastava’s intuitive, intelligent cinematography is more than impressive and utilises an inventive feminist visual logic, such as the gauze of a burkha obscuring the lens. She paints her characters’ passions in rich reds, oranges and yellows, their inner lives expressed through pop culture symbols of femininity with nods to Lichtenstein. 


Lipstick Under My Burka screens at Glasgow Film Festival: 24 Feb, GFT, 8.15pm | 25 Feb, GFT, 11am

Read more about Glasgow Film Festival in The CineSkinny – in print at Glasgow Film Festival venues and online at theskinny.co.uk/film/cineskinny

Follow Rachel Bowles on Twitter at @hyperfemme