Bold & fiery

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 20 July 2017

While Lipstick Under My Burkha has turned the spotlight on Indian woman’s unrestrained exploration of sexuality, there have been many films in the past too which have dealt with the ‘taboo’ topic

So finally, after a long battle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Alankrita Srivastava’s much-anticipated film Lipstick Under My Burkha is releasing today. Apparently, the CBFC found the film, which centres around the sexual fantasies and empowerment of four women, too bold for Indian audience. The lead characters are played by Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkana Sensharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, 

But the question is — ‘Has Bollywood always refrained from showcasing a woman’s physical desires?’

The answer is no. There have been a few filmmakers who have portrayed women in their boldest avatars when it comes to sexual matters. Let’s take a look at some of those films where one would find everything from conversations on masturbation, lesbian love, passions of female sex-workers, to the meaning of a woman’s consent to sex beyond the constraints of marriage.

by Ketan Mehta (1993)
An adaptation of Madame Bovary, Ketan Mehta’s Maya Memsaab is about a woman (Deepa Sahi) who despite being married, finds sexual liberation in two extra-marital affairs. Shah Rukh Khan and Raj Babbar played her lovers and Farooque Shaikh played the husband. The movie was talked about for the controversial sex scene between Deepa and Shah Rukh.

by Mira Nair (1996) 
This erotic drama tells the tale of betrayal and sexual intrigue found within the confines of a great Indian palace. Inspired by a short story by Urdu author Wajida Tabassum titled Utran, Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love portrays Tara and Maya as two girls from different social backgrounds. Maya gets Tara’s ‘hand-me-downs’ throughout her life. But Tara gets married to the local prince, Raj Singh and on the wedding night, he seeks Maya for sexual pleasure. So for the rest of her life now Tara will have something that Maya has used.

by Leena Yadav (2015)
Set in Rajasthan, Parched tells the story of four women — a child bride, Rani, a young widow Lajjo (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a woman unable to conceive (Radhika Apte) and Bijli (Surveen Chawla), a street dancer and part-time prostitute. The movie shows us how every woman struggles with her own sexuality, until she claims and enjoys it. Rani indulges into a cell phone romance with an anonymous man, Lajjo enjoys a one-time sexual encounter out of her marage and Bijli aspires for romantic love beyond her pervert clientele. What sexual liberation they lack due to circumstances, they reclaim by challenging social norms.

by Aparna Sen (1984) 
Aparna Sen’s second film Parama shows Rakhee Gulzar playing the titular role. A 40-year-old married woman, she falls for a much younger man and finds liberation through the illicit affair. The film shows the journey of the married woman whose circumstances push her to rebel against the patriarchal domination of her strict Bengali household.

by Deepa Mehta (1996) 
Touted as one of the first Indian films to depict homosexuality in mainstream cinema, Fire by Deepa Mehta portrayed Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das sharing a love relationship. Married to two brothers, Shabana and Nandita are lonely in their lives since their husbands ignore them. Their love becomes both a means of sexual liberation and a catalyst to defying the patriarchal bondage in their lives. They begin to explore their sexual desires and realise that they want to be together and their love for each other makes them fight all odds and leave the house to pursue a life together.

by Shonali Bose (2014) 
Margarita With A Straw is a story that revolves around a teenager Laila (Kalki Koechlin) with cerebral palsy and her romantic dilemmas as a differently abled bisexual woman. While Laila’s disability poses a challenge in fully expressing herself sexually, it doesn’t prevent her from having lovers. The film explores Laila’s own difficult acceptance of her bisexuality and her love for a blind girl. She must make her mother understand that her sexuality is her private business.

by Pan Nalin (2015)  
The film takes us to a gathering of friends, hosted by Freida (Sarah Jane Dias), a fashion photographer, at her ancestral home in Goa. Mid-way through the film, Freida reveals that the congregation was called to celebrate her upcoming wedding. To the utter surprise of her friends (and the audience) the groom is part of their group — Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a tribal rights activist. What is refreshing about the film is the uninhibited way in which the girls express themselves sexually — playfully ogling at the hot neighbour, their raunchy repartee and the celebration of a homosexual marriage.

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