Alankrita Shrivastava on the long struggle to get her film, Lipstick Under My Burkha, certified, and what it means to be a firebrand filmmaker in India
Looking back at the ordeal you went through, what trends do you feel have emerged that will continue to affect other filmmakers?
There is a deep and systematic discrimination vis à vis the rights of women to be able to express themselves. I will continue to call the Censor Board out on the hypocrisy of censorship in India. You can’t have double standards for the content created by the male gaze for the fulfillment of male desire and discriminate against alternative points of view.
What do you believe may have unsettled the Censor Board?
The fact that it is a female’s point of view. The female gaze is so rare in Indian cinema that it threatens patriarchy. Also, often, we still look at the female protagonist through male eyes. Even in Pink (2016) and Dangal (2016), though they have strong female protagonists, ultimately it is the superstar male hero who saves the women.
What challenges are unique to a woman filmmaker?
Personally, my content makes it challenging for me. To the system at large, I feel like I am expected to apologise for not making films with big male stars. I feel I will always have to struggle to get my films released.
What kept you going when the release seemed uncertain in India, even as it received international recognition?
Lipstick has already won nine awards, including the Grand Jury Prize for the Best Feature Film at Films de Femmes in France. We have been encouraged to campaign for the Golden Globes. The fact that film has been travelling and being appreciated gave me hope. What also encouraged me was the response from the Indian women, and men. I felt everyone was supporting me.