Why The CBFC Wants You To Watch ‘Mastizaade’ But Not ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’

Posted by Shweta Bhat in Media, Sexism And Patriarchy
March 1, 2017
A still from “Lipstick Under My Burkha”

For the past two days, I’ve been encountering posts about the kind of movies that the Indian censor board either bans or doesn’t. Last week, a friend and I were discussing about “Fifty Shades Darker” not getting past the censor. I know that it’s not a very good example – “Fifty Shades Darker” is being panned by critics worldwide as a disappointing movie version of a lukewarm book. But consider this: the censor board let “Mastizaade” through. Of all things, “Mastizaade“!

“Mastizaade” poster

Then I read about a movie called “Lipstick Under My Burkha” being denied a certificate. I’d not heard of this movie before, though reports say it’s doing well and is beginning to garner appreciation worldwide. Judging from the title, the movie seems to be about female empowerment. As I write this, I am instantly reminded of movies like “Margarita With A Straw” and “Fire“.

“Margarita with a Straw” poster
“Fire” poster

The reason for the censor board nixing “Lipstick Under My Burkha” was that it was too ‘lady oriented‘. I’m not sure what their understanding of ‘lady oriented’ is in this case. If you think about it, banning like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Fifty Shades Darker” makes a bit of sense (instead of no sense at all) since they contain scenes depicting ‘sex’ and ‘nudity’. But what about a movie like “Mastizaade“?

My theory is that it’s not about the sexual acts that these movies portray. Rather, it’s about the ‘kinds of acts’ that they portray. People who’ve seen any (or both) of the “Fifty Shades” movies will vouch for the fact that they portray sex in ways which are, for lack of a better expression, ‘lady oriented‘. Can this be a reason to deny Indian viewers, who are legal adults, from legally watching these movies out of their own volition?

Now I haven’t watched “Fifty Shades Darker” (which I want to) or “Lipstick Under My Burkha” (which I really want to) or “Mastizaaade” (which I really don’t want to, based on movie reviews and trailers). But it does make one think, doesn’t it? Is ‘sex in movies’ really only OK as long as it focuses on ‘male pleasure’? After all, what’s so uncomfortable about some ‘lady orientation’?

As I’m writing this, the Internet is blowing up with this news. All over the world, y’all.

By the way, this was a ‘teaser’ poster for “Kya Kool Hai Hum 3“, another gem that the board let through. Yes, it’s all “couched in metaphor” and “sex is not shown directly” – but do you really not think a child would get the whole message in three seconds:

Riddle me this — Can you unravel this puzzle?

What do you make of all this, dear reader? Do comment! One of the positive outcomes of all these cringe-worthy news is that people are opening up about the fare we consume as movie audiences. They are also becoming aware of the moral policing that has immutable power over what we are and are not allowed to watch – and most importantly, the way in which we view sexual pleasure.