Feminist drama Lipstick Under My Burkha is cleared for a theatrical release in India after the country's Film Certification Appellate Tribunal overruled the censor board's refusal to issue the film a certificate.
The board had refused a certificate, saying that the film was "lady oriented" and contained "abusive words, audio pornography."
That led the producers to approach the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which decided that the film can be issued a so-called "A" or adults certificate, equivalent to an NC-17 rating, with some voluntary edits.
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, Lipstick revolves around four Indian women, from ages 18 to 55, living in a small town who assert their personal and sexual rights.
The cast includes Konkona Sen Sharma (whose directorial debut, A Death in the Gunj, screened at Toronto in 2016), Ratna Pathak Shah and Sonal Jha, among others.
When the filmmakers applied for a release certificate in February, the Censor Board for Film Certification issued a letter, peppered with grammatical and spelling errors, saying that the "story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines."
That led the film's producer, well-known filmmaker Prakash Jha, to file an appeal with the FCAT. That organization has now said in a statement that the CBFC "misdirected themselves in denying certification on the ground that the story of the film is women oriented." It added: "There cannot be any embargo on a film being women oriented or containing sexual fantasies and expression of the inner desires of women."
It continued: "As a matter of general approach, if the aspect of sexual desires and their expression is sensitively handled without bringing coarseness, vulgarity or obscenity, pandering prurient tendencies, then it is not to be disallowed."
FCAT also instructed the filmmakers to make some cuts at their discretion, mostly pertaining to the sex scenes. Shrivastava told THR that the cuts "are about slightly shortening the sex scenes to which we agreed." She added that the cuts "don't affect the film thematically or in any other way. The FCAT has actually been fair in their observations and have supported the film."
As for the film's release date, Shrivastava said that an announcement would be made in the next "10-12 days."
Lipstick won the Spirit of Asia Award at 2016's Tokyo Film Festival, followed by the Oxfam Award for gender equality at the Mumbai Film Festival. Among its recent honors, the film won an audience choice award at the Glasgow Film Festival.