“If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?”
-Mary Astel 1668-1731
Though the world has entered into a new millennium, the women of the patriarchal society continue to be oppressed and exploited in the shield of culture and traditions. From the dawn of civilization until date, women have faced discrimination in every sphere of life. Stereotypes of gender roles have continued for ages and anything a woman does beyond the sociocultural factor is considered as a stigma.
While the world was applauding and eulogizing the Oscar winning movie “Moonlight”, India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), apparently decided that the film “Lipstick Under My Burkha” would not be certified for distribution, ambiguously saying the story is “lady oriented, their fantasy above life” and contained words of abuse and “audio pornography.” The Oscar winning movie based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is a narrative of three stages of life of a young black man struggling to be habituate and accustomed while growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami. It was showered with accolades for portraying a remarkable and brilliantly crafted story that weaves crucial experiences a gay boy struggling with his sexuality and trying to unlock his shielded heart.
“Lipstick Under My Burkha” tells the story of four feisty women from small town in India who try to steal a piece of freedom, instead of cowing down to restrictions imposed by family and society. It has won the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality, the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival. The Indian Cinema, in the recent years though has contributed remarkable women oriented movies like Queen, Fashion, Kahani, Dirty Picture, Parched, Pink and a few more but when it comes to breaking the usual stereotypes, it still stands way beyond our expectations. The CBFC’s refused to certify the Prakash Jha-produced and Alankrita Srivastava-directed Lipstick Under My Burkha because it dares to portray female sexual desires. “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society. Hence film refused under guidelines …”, a statement given by CBFC.
The same CBFC has no objection in certifying sex comedies from male perspective, where female actors do dance among crowds of ogling men or shed of their clothes for seductive roles, but a highly spirited, female oriented film attempting to break the norm challenges the status quo.
“The constitutional significance of the freedom of speech consists in the Preamble of Constitution and is transformed as fundamental and human right in Article 19(1) (a) as “freedom of speech and expression”. Explaining the scope of freedom of speech and expression Supreme Court has said that the words “freedom of speech and expression” must be broadly constructed to include the freedom to circulate one’s views by words of mouth or in writing or through audiovisual instrumentalities. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one’s idea through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as gesture, signs, and the like.”
Patanjali Shastri,J. in A.K. Gopalan case, observed,“man as a rational being desires to do many things, but in a civil society his desires will have to be controlled with the exercise of similar desires by other individuals”. Every citizen of this country therefore has the right to air his or their views through the printing and or the electronic media subject of course to permissible restrictions imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
These filmmakers also have the right to express their views through visual means and if the question of decency and morality restricts a female oriented movie that explores women beyond the usual stereotypes then the same shall be applied for the movies from male perspective, which have been certified without any objection despite having objectionable content.
AUTHOR – Shringar Bhattarai, student