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India Bans Female Empowerment Movie ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’

Variety logo Variety 2/23/2017 Naman Ramachandran
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India’s film censor has denied a theatrical release to Alankrita Shrivastava’s woman empowerment drama “Lipstick Under My Burkha.”

In 2016 the film won the Spirit of Asia award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Oxfam award for best film on gender equality at the Mumbai Film Festival.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) letter to the producer Prakash Jha stated: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused.”

The film chronicles the secret lives of four women of different ages in small town India as they search for different kinds of freedom.

“This is an attack on women’s right to tell their stories, from a female perspective,” Shrivastava told Variety from Scotland, where the film is to have its U.K. premiere Glasgow Film Festival on Feb. 24.

“It is also a clear attack on the freedom of expression. India is so steeped in its discrimination against women, it becomes evident in such decisions. In a country where there is so much violence against women, and such double standards for women, rather than encourage women’s stories told by women themselves, our stories are stifled.”

The CBFC said that the film had transgressed its guidelines on: “vulgarity, obscenity or depravity;” “scenes degrading or denigrating women;” “sexual violence against women;” “sexual perversions;” and “visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups.”

“I will battle this out and do whatever it takes to ensure that audiences in India can watch the film,” Shrivastava said.

Jha now has the option to appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). This is not Jha’s first run in with the CBFC. His 2016 directorial venture “Jai Gangaajal”, starring Priyanka Chopra (“Quantico”) was not passed by the CBFC and later cleared by the FCAT.

The CBFC routinely denies certification and insists on censor cuts. A high profile case in 2016 was “Udta Punjab” where the Bombay High Court overturned the CBFC censorship decision and allowed the film to release with only one cut.

Recently, the CBFC censored the Oscar-nominated “Moonlight” including the muting of some swear words, a heterosexual sex scene and a same sex kiss.

In 2012, Sony Pictures cancelled the India release of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” after David Fincher refused to comply with CBFC cuts.

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