Opening this week

‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’: Lusting and taboo-busting in small town India

In Alankrita Shrivastava’s chick flick, four women living double lives in Bhopal try to break free.

Respectable matron Usha Parmar has a secret that emerges when the lights are turned out. Usha consumes pulp romances by night and takes the mildly salacious prose so seriously that when the hunky swimming coach offers to give her lessons, her dormant libido floats to the surface.

Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) isn’t the only one leading a double life in Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha. For her second movie after the shambolic Turning 30!!! (2011), the filmmaker turns her attention to the stifled lives of small-town Indian women. If Turning 30!!! posited that deracinated urban women were not free from social pressures, Lipstick Under My Burkha sets out to prove that female misery extends to the cities that lie beyond the supposedly progressive metropolises.

Usha is connected to three other women who live in the house that she owns – the significantly named Havai Mahal. Beauty parlour owner Leela (Aahana Kumra) is burning up the bedsheets with a photographer (Vikrant Massey) and is on the threshold of a marriage she doesn’t want. College student Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) slips out of her burkha as soon as she has left her home and dreams of being Madhya Pradesh’s answer to Miley Cyrus. Shirin (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a smooth-talking sales representative, a fact she has managed to hide from her sexually demanding husband (Sushant Singh).

The setting is Bhopal, which is depicted to be small enough to make the mere suggestion of taboo topics shocking (female sexual desire, masturbation, marital rape) but large enough to easily absorb the consequences of all the lusting and thrusting.

Lipstick Under My Burkha.

The F-word in a movie in which a lip-colouring agent is treated as a tool of empowerment, on par with the burning bra and the brandished broom, isn’t feminism but freedom. Like the Lebanese movie Caramel (2007), which featured the owner of a beauty parlour and her clients, Lipstick Under My Burkha gives women’s problems the light and bright treatment. There is enough realism to make the narrative credible and enough glamour to ensure that these women are not confused with their messier real-life counterparts. The women learn the hard way that a step forward is two steps behind, but the agony and emotional attrition that results from being shackled and misunderstood are missing.

The movie is structured as a series of episodes that connect only in the climax. The approach allows Shrivastava to map out strong individual graphs for her characters, but it also eliminates the prospect of female solidarity. Unlike Parched, which came out in 2016, the four women in Lipstick Under My Burkha fight lonely wars, each sallying forth on her own, without the benefit of a similarly sagging shoulder to cry on.

The post-feminist approach is at its starkest in Leela’s story. Her mother has an unusual career choice that holds lessons for her daughter, but gets neglected in a narrative packed with characters.

The bar is set low in terms of psychological shading, and some tracks fare better than the others on the strength of acting calibre. Shrivastava deftly handles her ensemble cast, but two stand out: Konkona Sen Sharma as the baby producing machine who yearns to be taken seriously, and Aahana Kumra as the difficult daughter who craves love and sexual satisfaction rather than familial responsibility.

Usha’s gradual sexual awakening is played for laughs to make it more palatable. Jagat Singh Solanki, as the swimming trainer, is this movie’s male item girl, the subject of Usha’s Mills and Boon-inspired fantasies.

Ratna Pathak Shah in Lipstick Under My Burkha.
Ratna Pathak Shah in Lipstick Under My Burkha.

Forbidden fruit turns out to be more easily available than one would imagine. The ease with the women get away with behaviour that would be caught out even in big cities is enviable. Leela, for one, is so successful with her assignations that her angst beggars belief, just as Rehana’s ability to hoodwink her parents is strictly on the level of adolescent fantasy. Rehana’s parents should have been onto her merely by looking at her incredibly sharp eyebrows and immaculately made-up face, but they are too busy living up to the stereotype of orthodox minders who simply don’t get their kids.

The sexual politics isn’t always on target, but the emphasis on sexual freedom is. The script wobbles as the four tracks evolve and get far too complicated to be smoothly straightened out, but it is at its entertaining best when the women get all hot and heavy. The beauty parlour, the boudoir, the swimming pool and the college campus are transformed into erogenous zones. Our favourite isn’t Leela having it off with her boyfriend while her hapless fiancé waits for her, Rehana cosying up to her moody drummer classmate (Shashank Arora), or Shirin getting a Brazilian. Usha is a vision as she blissfully floats in a pool, coming closest to the pulp heroine of her imagination.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Han Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.


To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.