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The Female Gaze

A handful of female directors are striving to change the way women are now presented on screen.
Devika Singh   New Delhi     Print Edition: October 8, 2017
The Female Gaze
ALANKRITA SHRIVASTAVA Film-maker (Photo: Vivan Mehra)

One of the most controversial movies of the year, Lipstick Under My Burkha had a steady run at the box office. The story features the tumultuous lives of four women from different age-groups who are struggling to take control of their lives in a patriarchal set-up. The 'lady-oriented' film was initially banned by the Central Board of Film Certification for its explicit scenes and use of abusive words. But Alankrita Shrivastava, the film's director and co-writer, was unfazed. She appealed to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and got it cleared for release. Lipstick has received an overwhelming response and collected around Rs 19 crore from the domestic market in the first four weeks of its release.

"I got support from everybody when the film was banned. It was quite clear that no one was really okay with the censor board's decision and they were the only ones standing out like a sore thumb, representing this bastion of the patriarchy," says Shrivastava.

But even before that, the director had trouble with funding and distributors. "The film got funding because an independent producer decided to take a personal risk. And the studios were not interested in distributing," she recalls. The reason they gave was - it is very new-age, very risque.

Bollywood has often drawn flak for its false depiction of women and their objectification. But only a handful of movies delve deep into women-related issues. "That is the gaze in cinema," explains Shrivastava.

According to her, story-telling in India has always been controlled by men. "When it comes to women, she is either a martyr of a mother, the sacrificing wife or the virtuous lover. She is either untarnished like a goddess or she is a vamp, and she is completely objectified."

Shrivastava thinks the situation may change dramatically if there are more women directors. And she is keen to spearhead the change. The director is yet to pick her next project, but she is committed to bringing out films that talk about the new-age women of India.

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