The award-winning film Lipstick Under My Burkha, which was temporarily blocked from release in India by a government commission, opens in U.S. theaters this Friday.
Though the film premiered back in October of last year and has already played several several international film festivals, Lipstick Under My Burkha finally will open in six theaters in California, four in the Bay Area alone.
Writer and director Alankrita Shrivastava spent the past week in Silicon Valley promoting the U.S. release of her controversial film. Her tour stops included an event at Google Headquarters and a panel talk with venture capitalist Meera Kaul at her home.
Shrivastava's movie, a dramatic comedy, focuses on four Bhopal women who live in a tiny conservative village rebelling against long held taboos, many of them sexual. The independent film came under scrutiny from India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which kept it from being released in January of this year, citing issues with its sexual nature. In its decision, the CBFC faulted the film for being "lady oriented."
"They did what they could in their power to stop the film from being exhibited," Shrivastava said during the panel discussion with Kaul. "But what I think is interesting is that when this decision became public, the women of India really stood up."
Media outlets in India focused on the film and its commentary on conservative Indian values regarding women, and Shrivastava says the controversy led to serious discussions about feminism in her home country.
"For the first time, I felt that Indian mainstream media was discussing things like the male gaze and how the portrayal of women has been controlled by men," Shrivastava said.
Indians had opinions on the film before they had seen, Shrivastava says.
Shrivastava compromised with the CBFC, volunteering more than 16 cuts to the film. At the time, Shrivastava said "Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence."
After being approved for release, the film premiered in July in 400 theaters, which is a small number when compared to Bollywood features that will be released to 3,000 screens. Still, the controversy helped drum up support for the movie and it became a "super hit," recovering its production costs four days after its initial release.