Earlier this year, Alankrita Srivastava’s award-winning movie about the simple lives of four middle class Indian women struggling to find self-expression in a patriarchal society, was banned by the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC), India. A letter issued by the CBFC stating the reason behind its ban said, “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contentious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines (sic).”
In India, you can publicly issue a statement saying that you are banning a creative endeavour because it is “lady oriented”. You can openly express your disapproval at women having “fantasy above life”; of expressing their most honest emotions; of wanting a little more from their life than to resign themselves to a fate written by an oppressive society. The ban on the movie – in a strange poetic way, is a true representation of everything the movie actually stands for.
In fact, I would go as far as to say, that to even think that women do not have sexual desires, that they do not put their own needs first, and do not want more for themselves; is actually the real “fantasy above life”. It is the fantasy that the Indian society has been living under for far too long now. It is the fantasy propelled and perpetrated every single day by India’s social construct, mythological books and even the Indian cinema.
No surprise then, that sexual innuendos and objectification of women in most popular movies is given a nod by CBFC without a blink. But to get them to understand and approve of the female point-of-view instead, takes a 6-month long battle, multiple appeals, media and public outrage. When a handful of people who are conditioned by the very same ethos of misogyny, that the movie attempts to shatter, are given the sole authority to decide what the country should watch, it is almost natural for them to disregard the point-of view-of almost 48% of its population (females), and also the men who live in the reality that is today.
Ironically, if one gets down to objectively deconstruct the movie, it is an honest work of art attempting to tell the simple stories of 4 Indian women in mid-tier central Indian households and their journey towards self-expression and self-actualization.
It is about the simple triumphs that women in India fight for every day. Like wanting a career of your own, or wanting to get past the boundaries of your parents’ burkha stitching shop and into a world of endless possibilities. Or even wanting to assert your identity and desires after decades of fulfilling your societal roles.
The red lipstick is a symbol of their assertion and freedom. In reality, there is nothing about the movie that can possibly corrupt the “innocent, impressionable minds of young naïve women”. If anything, it can only stir the spark within them to assert their innermost feelings and seize the light that is theirs for the taking.
Tomorrow, after a 6-month long battle with the CBFC, the movie is set to release across India and we couldn’t have recommended a better way to spend your weekend.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of VanillaLuxury.sg.
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