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CBFC refuses certificate to Prakash Jha's Lipstick Under My Burkha

After a quiet couple of months, the Central Board of Film Certification has taken up 'censor' duties again by refusing to issue a certification for director Alankrita Srivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha, produced by Jha.

Shriram Iyengar

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has refused to issue a certification for the release of Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha. The film tells the story of four women from different generations and classes discovering their own sexuality and freedom. Written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, and produced by Prakash Jha Productions, the film stars Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkona Sensharma in lead roles. The film won critical acclaim and appreciation on its premiere at the 18th Mumbai Film Festival in 2016. However, the CBFC seems to be in no mood to allow the film to release. 

In a letter sent to Prakash Jha productions, the board has denied the issual of a certificate to the film on the basis of it being 'lady oriended [oriented], their fantasy above life.' In a letter that is riddled with spelling errors, the board has clearly stated that it 'has come to the conclusion that a certificate cannot be issued for its exhibition for the reasons stated on the reverse.' 

The letter also stated that 'there are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography, and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of the society.' The board further gave clarification that the refusal of certificate comes under guidelines 1(a), 2(vii), 2(ix), 2(x), 2(xi), 2(xii) and 3(i). 

For now, the makers of the film do have the option of approaching the F-CAT tribunal to ask and repeal this decision. This denial of certification comes in the wake of a number of similar 'censor' cuts by the board. Recently, the CBFC had cut out several scenes from the Academy Award nominated film, Moonlight. The story about a young black boy's discovery of his homosexuality did not go down too well with the board. CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani told a newspaper, "I don’t care what other people think. It is our job to decide what is appropriate — or not — for our culture. If we think that the content doesn’t fit in with the culture of the country, then we shall remove it." 

Read more: Prakash Jha helped me develop my own voice: Alankrita Shrivastava

This penchant for denying certification and cutting out scenes is a reversal of the directive set by the Mumbai High Court during the Udta Punjab controversy. In 2016, the makers of Udta Punjab had taken the board to court to prevent them from cutting major scenes from the film and denying them a certificate. In its statement, the Bombay High Court had said: 'There is no mention of the word ‘censor’ in board. Board should use its powers as per Constitution and Supreme Court’s directions.' 

Director Alankrita Shrivastava, who is currently at the Glasgow International Film Festival for the film's premiere on 24 February was quoted as saying, "It’s a feminist film with a strong female voice. I think that’s why they don’t want to certify it. As a filmmaker, I stand by the story and will fight for it till the end." 

Producer Prakash Jha came out in support of the film as well, saying, "Films should challenge the status quo, which is what Lipstick Under My Burkha perhaps does and I believe our audience deserve to watch it." 

It looks like the CBFC is back to its 'censor' duties.