Banned work opens Indian film festival

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  • Actress Aahana Kumra (left) and director Alankrita Srivastava (center) at Q&A after screening of “Lipstick Under My Burkha,” with moderator Aseem Chhabra. Photo: Maria Boyadjieva

  • Salman Rushdie and Kiran Desai on the red carpet at opening of 2017 New York Indian Film Festival. Photo: Maria Boyadjieva


“Lipstick Under My Burkha” draws a stellar crowd and focuses attention on women filmmakers

By Genia Gould

The 17th Annual New York Indian Film Festival kicked off with buzz on Sunday, April 30th at Village Cinema East with a handful of literary luminaries, including Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai and social activist Gloria Steinem in attendance. There was extra significance to the kickoff: the opening night film, “Lipstick Under My Burkha,” is banned in India.

The film, directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, was deemed by The Indian Central Board of Film Certification to be unfit for general audiences due to “sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography.” But during a Q&A after the screening with the director and actors, a member of the audience said that the Indian Central Board may in fact be considering certifying the film with an adult tag.

A television station in India that was supposed to air the movie before it was banned ran a black screen during the scheduled airing to protest the ban, said Yoshita Singh, a senior correspondent for Press Trust of India who works at the U.N.

The film was screened at the Tokyo and Mumbai Film Festivals, and won the Spirit of Asia Prize and the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality.

Aroon Shivdasani, the founder of the festival and executive director of Indo-American Arts Council, said that the theme of the festival this year is women and diversity. “This opening night film was fantastic,” she said. “We’ve had four women from different walks of life from the same town in Bhopal talking about their desires and needs and how they don’t want to follow the lead of a man. People need to understand them.”

The festival, which includes 44 documentaries, shorts, and features, in seven regional languages representing four South Asian Countries, continues through May 7th at Village Cinema East.

Video by Genia Gould

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