Mumbai: India's film censor board has refused to certify "Lipstick Under My Burkha" for its sexual references and use of abusive words, among others. And even as a string of celebrities condemned the development as ridiculous, the film's director Alankrita Shrivastava said she is determined to ensure that the Indian audiences get to watch the film.
Celebrities, including Pooja Bhatt, Farhan Akhtar and Vivek Agnihotri, spoke up against the Central Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) decision -- bringing the spotlight back on the feasibility of the censor board in India.
The film -- starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Ratna Pathak Shah -- chronicles the secret lives of four women of different ages in a small town in India as they search for different kinds of freedom.
A copy of the CBFC letter to the film's producer Prakash Jha states: "The story is lady-oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused."
Shrivastava, who is in Glasgow, where the film will be screened at Glasgow Film Festival, told IANS: "I am not defeated, disheartened or disillusioned by the CBFC's refusal to certify 'Lipstick Under My Burkha'. I am more determined than ever before to ensure that 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' can be watched by Indian audiences."
"I will fight this out till the very end, and do whatever it takes because this is not about my film. The real issue is the systematic suppression of women's voices and the throttling of freedom of expression," added Shrivastava, who last helmed "Turning 30!!!".
Shrivastava said that "as a woman and as a filmmaker no one can take away my voice". She added: "I believe the decision to refuse certification to our film is an assault on women's rights."
The film won the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival. It will be screened in Glasgow on Friday.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri tweeted: "There is no excuse for any kind of censorship. Absolute freedom of speech or nothing."
Farhan Akhtar also posted: "Below is the reason CBFC listed for denying 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' a release. Keep your barf bag ready."
Ranvir Shorey said that "it's time CBFC stops being an embarrassment to the nation".
"Masaan" director Neeraj Ghaywan also reacted strongly about the issue, and said: "Alankrita's film 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' that won an award for gender equality is being mansplained over being 'Lady oriented'. Irony!"
Filmmaker Pooja Bhatt said the "makers must approach revising committee and tribunal thereafter. Censor board wants to pass the buck. CBFC consists of frightened people, only interested in securing their jobs. They won't take a stand and are happy if one approaches revising committee."
In recent times, the CBFC had refused a certificate to "Haraamkhor", but the makers later took the film to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and got the green signal for release.