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After a wait that seemed too long Lipstick Under My Burkha finally hit the big screens. Hordes of women have been rushing since to see real life in reel. The feminist in me was looking forward to watch a women centric flick, a rarity in bollywood. So, off I went with my girlfriends to catch a show. The depiction of women's angst, their subjugation , their physical and psychological exploitation was quite articulate. But then happened a debacle. Little did I know that a movie made on such sensitive issues would end up constructing detestable stereotypes and promote the idea of fitting in rather than standing out. My Muslim self, clad in hijab (Burkha) was flustered, embarrassed and shocked. A Muslim teenager is shown stripping her Burkha to feel like a part of her top notch college and also using the same Burkha to shop lift. While her father is a bearded man with blood shot eyes who seems ready to strike his sword at the next Allahu Akbar call! Another protagonist Shireen is a Muslim woman, clad in a Burkha suffering at the hands of her chauvinist husband who is violently frightening in his words and actions. Muslims just got boiled down to Burkhas, beard and violence! I cringed. Squirming in my seat I got analysing that particular character of Rehana, the teenager who was quite efficiently getting in and out of her Burkha. Is this depiction feministic in nature? It definitely isn't. It's stereotyping Muslims and demeaning women. Women and men all over the world use Burkha for anonymity. Lifting shops, children and what not. But they aren't all Muslims. They could very well be of any other faith. Another disturbing idea through the movie was the persistent reiteration of Burkha as an obstacle, a bondage supposed to be broken free from. If you have to get famous, you strip. You want to make friends you strip. You want to party you strip. So it looks like stripping is the norm. Stripping is the way to excel, to carve a niche for yourself, to be happy. This constant implication seems to have negated an important motif of feminism which is freedom of choice for women to be able to wear what they like and yet be accepted. Where is my freedom if I am accepted only if I wear a particular set of clothing and be out of another? The stereotyping of Muslim Burkha clad women was a generalisation, a rather mistaken one. The whole lot of women who choose to wear a Burkha and choose not to strip anywhere for any reason and most certainly not use it to shop lift are ignored. The action of getting out of the Burkha in this movie was like rebelling against one norm in order to succumb to another.
Instead, her character could've portrayed the strife of Muslim women or women of any faith when they chose to dress up in a concealing fashion. The patriarchal world that wishes to commodify every part of women's anatomy doesn't give any chance to such women. It looks down upon them and judges them on the parameters of appearances only. Her stripping out of her Burkha was a victory dance for the perpetrators of women's commodification. It certainly warped the concept of women's freedom for simpletons.
How I wish the young audiences would look beyond this garble and distortion and learn to distinguish between true freedom and the sham that is being sold in the name of freedom!