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Lipstick Under My Burkha

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Lipstick Under My Burkha is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language black comedy film written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha.The film stars Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, while Sushant Singh, Sonal Jha, Vikrant Massey, Shashank Arora, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi and Jagat Singh Solanki play supportive roles. The movie shows the secret lives of four women who are in search of their freedom. Even after facing all the odds and obstacles in their way, they still manage to find their way to claim their desires through small acts of courage.

The first trailer was released on 14 October 2016. The film was initially denied a release in India in January 2017, after the country's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refused a certificate, stating that There are contagious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society. The film premiered at the Tokyo and Mumbai Film Festivals, where it won the Spirit of Asia Prize and the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality. The film received two nominations at the 63rd Filmfare Awards, including Best Film (Critics) and Best Supporting Actress for Ratna Pathak.

Table Of Contents


Movie name

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Directed by

Alankrita Shrivastava

Screenplay by

Alankrita Shrivastava

Story by

Alankrita Shrivastava

Produced by

Prakash Jha, JB Angels


Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur


Akshay Singh

Edited by

Charu Shree Roy

Music by

Zebunnisa Bangash, Mangesh Dhakde 

Production Company

Prakash Jha Productions

Distributed by

ALT Entertainment

Release date

October 2016 (Mumbai Film Festival)

21 July 2017






6 crore


The plot of the movie 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' follows the lives of four women living in the small town of Bhopal, India, who navigate their desires and aspirations in a society that imposes strict patriarchal norms.

The film explores the lives of these women: Usha (played by Ratna Pathak Shah), a middle-aged widow and a conservative matriarch who secretly reads erotic novels; Shireen (played by Konkona Sen Sharma), a married woman who works as a saleswoman and endures an abusive relationship with her husband; Leela (played by Aahana Kumra), a young beautician who rebels against societal expectations and engages in a secret affair; and Rihanna (played by Plabita Borthakur), a college student who dreams of breaking free from her family's conservative grip.

As these women pursue their hidden desires, they face numerous challenges and obstacles, both personal and societal. Their stories intersect and intertwine, revealing the common struggles faced by women in a patriarchal society, where their dreams and aspirations are often suppressed and controlled.

Through the characters' journeys, 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' boldly addresses themes of sexual liberation, gender inequality, and the search for personal freedom. The film sheds light on the inner lives and desires of these women, showcasing their resilience and strength in challenging societal norms.

With its raw and honest portrayal of female desires and aspirations, 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' serves as a powerful commentary on the importance of self-expression, breaking free from societal constraints, and reclaiming one's identity in the face of adversity.


The film was initially denied a release in India in January 2017, after the country's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refused a certificate, stating that There are contagious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society. The filmmakers appealed this decision to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The FCAT viewed the film and communicated its concerns to the film producers on 27 May 2017. The film producers came back to FCAT with a list of 16 voluntary cuts that addressed the raised concerns. In addition to the 16 cuts, the FCAT suggested some more cuts and directed the CBFC to issue an A certificate to the movie following the changes.

Shrivastava told Agence-France Presse: Of course, I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence. The second official trailer was released on 27 June 2017. The film was released on 400 screens on 21 July 2017 in India. The film was made at a budget of ₹ 6 crore.


'Lipstick Under My Burkha' is a thought-provoking and empowering film that explores the lives of four women challenging societal norms in a small town. It offers a raw and honest portrayal of their desires, struggles, and aspirations. The performances are compelling, and the film tackles important themes of female sexuality, gender inequality, and personal freedom. It is a bold and evocative movie that sparks conversations and encourages viewers to question the restrictive norms imposed on women. 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' is a must-watch for its powerful storytelling and its celebration of women's resilience and strength.



Character Analysis

Ratna Pathak Shah as Usha: Ratna Pathak Shah delivers a brilliant performance as Usha, a middle-aged widow and a conservative matriarch. Usha's character is complex, as she balances societal expectations with her hidden desires. Shah skillfully portrays Usha's yearning for liberation, bringing depth and vulnerability to the role. Her performance beautifully captures the internal conflicts and the quiet strength of a woman who seeks to break free from the constraints imposed on her.

Konkona Sen Sharma as Shireen: Konkona Sen Sharma shines in the role of Shireen, a married woman who works as a saleswoman and faces domestic abuse. Sharma's portrayal is deeply impactful, showcasing Shireen's resilience and determination to carve out a life beyond the confines of her oppressive marriage. She brings a quiet strength and nuanced vulnerability to the character, emphasizing the complexities of a woman trying to balance her dreams and obligations.

Aahana Kumra as Leela: Aahana Kumra delivers a standout performance as Leela, a young beautician who rebels against societal expectations. Kumra portrays Leela's boldness and defiance with great authenticity, capturing her youthful energy and yearning for freedom. She skillfully conveys the conflicts Leela faces as she navigates her desires and societal judgments, making her a relatable and empowering character.

Plabita Borthakur as Rihanna: Plabita Borthakur impresses as Rihanna, a college student who dreams of breaking free from her conservative family. Borthakur brings a natural charm and innocence to the character, effectively portraying Rihanna's journey of self-discovery. Her performance showcases the conflicts between tradition and personal aspirations, highlighting the courage it takes to challenge societal expectations.

Overall, the actors in 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' deliver powerful performances, bringing depth and authenticity to their respective characters. Their portrayals effectively capture the struggles, desires, and resilience of women who strive to break free from societal constraints. Through their nuanced performances, they contribute to the film's strong


Song Title


Le Li Jaan

Malini Awasthi

Jigi Jigi

Malini Awasthi


Neeti Mohan, Amrita Talukdar


Manish J. Tipu, Malini Awasthi

Bande Hain Hum Uske

Shreya Ghoshal, Keshav Kumar

Door Kaheen

Prateek Kuhad

Behind the scenes

Director's Vision: The film was directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, who had a clear vision of portraying the struggles and aspirations of women in a conservative society. Shrivastava's directorial approach brought authenticity and depth to the narrative, making the film impactful and thought-provoking.

Controversial Theme: 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' tackled themes of female sexuality, desires, and personal freedom, which challenged societal norms. The film faced some resistance and censorship issues due to its frank portrayal of women's desires, but eventually garnered widespread acclaim for its boldness and honesty.

Ensemble Cast: The film boasted a talented ensemble cast that brought the characters to life with remarkable performances. Actors like Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, and Plabita Borthakur showcased their versatility and commitment to their respective roles, adding depth and authenticity to the storytelling.

Realistic Setting: The movie was primarily shot in Bhopal, India, which provided an authentic backdrop for the story. The locations and sets captured the essence of a small town, highlighting the contrast between the traditional and modern aspects of society.

Female-driven Production: 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' had a strong female-driven production team, including producer Prakash Jha and writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava. This emphasis on female perspectives and narratives added an important layer to the film's storytelling, ensuring an authentic portrayal of women's experiences.

Critical Acclaim and Festival Success: 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' made its premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2016 and went on to receive critical acclaim at various international film festivals. The movie won several awards and accolades for its powerful storytelling, including the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival.


Censorship Issues: The film initially faced significant challenges from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in India, which raised objections to the film's explicit content and deemed it too lady-oriented. The CBFC denied certification to the film, citing its lady-oriented theme and sexually explicit scenes. This led to a long-drawn battle between the filmmakers and the censor board to get the film released.

Cultural Backlash: Due to its frank depiction of female sexuality and desires, 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' received backlash from conservative sections of society. Some groups and individuals argued that the film went against cultural and traditional values, igniting debates around morality and the portrayal of women in Indian cinema.

Societal Resistance: The film's exploration of themes such as women's sexual liberation and personal freedom challenged deep-rooted patriarchal norms. This resulted in resistance and criticism from sections of society that felt uncomfortable with the film's progressive narrative, leading to heated discussions and divided opinions.

Box Office Collection

The film was released in India on the same day as Munna Michael with merely 400 screens. Media speculated this clash to affect the business of this film, as the latter released across 3000 screens with a star cast. Lipstick Under My Burkha earned ₹1.22 crore on its opening day. The controversy with the CBFC generated enough hype from the media, and a strong positive word of mouth from various critics attracted the audience. The film witnessed growth in the first weekend earnings and also held strong hold on weekdays. On first and second weekday, it earned ₹1.28 and ₹1.36 crore respectively which are higher than its opening day earning, becoming one of the rare films having stronger weekday earning than opening weekend in the Indian box office. It recovered its cost of production within four days of release, and earned ₹10.96 crore in the first week. The film was a commercial success and was declared as an Average by the box office.




Mumbai Film Festival

Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality

Asian Film Awards

Best Screenplay

Indian Film Festival of Melbourne

Best Indie Film

Jagran Film Festival

Best Film

Washington DC South Asian Film Festival

Best Film

Stockholm International Film Festival

Impact Award

Grand Jury Prize at the Films de Femmes International Women's Film Festival

Best Film

International Film Festival of India

Gender Equality Award

Filmfare Awards

Critics Award for Best Film

Filmfare Awards

Critics Award for Best Actress (Konkona Sen Sharma)

Zee Cine Awards

Best Film

Zee Cine Awards

Best Director (Alankrita Shrivastava)

Zee Cine Awards

Best Actress (Konkona Sen Sharma)

Screen Awards

Best Film

Screen Awards

Best Director (Alankrita Shrivastava)

Screen Awards

Best Actress (Konkona Sen Sharma)

'Lipstick Under My Burkha' is a groundbreaking film that fearlessly explores the lives of women challenging societal norms in a small town. With its bold and unapologetic storytelling, the movie delves into themes of female sexuality, personal freedom, and the resilience of women. The powerful performances by the ensemble cast, led by Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, and Plabita Borthakur, bring depth and authenticity to the characters, making their struggles and desires relatable.

The film not only faced controversy and censorship issues but also sparked important conversations about gender inequality, women's rights, and the power of female narratives in Indian cinema. Its impact extended beyond the screen, winning numerous awards and accolades for its compelling storytelling and progressive themes.

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