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Aahana Kumra of Lipstick Under My Burkha: I realized I had nothing to lose!

By Armin Sethi Monday, Sep 11, 2017 12:39: PM


If you have been following any kind of social media, you know that the ladies behind Lipstick Under My Burkha are all the rage, unless you’ve been living under a rock. With the film now taking the U.S. by storm, we talk to the outspoken, opinionated, and charismatic Aahana Kumra, who talks to me about the reason why Lipstick is so special and the kind of reaction she is getting – and of course, the things she hates hearing as a female.

Did you expect the kind of reaction you’re getting for Lipstick Under My Burkha?

Not at all. But I was curious to see what the reaction has been to Lipstick Under My Burkha because we had been traveling with this film. I knew what had been happening to the women after watching the filmsomething stirred and I think the same thing happened here. Of course, some people in India went completely out of curiosity to see why the film was banned. So I wondered what the reaction was going to be. Women came forth and shared their views on how relatable the film was.

Do you find you’re getting a positive reaction from not just the female but males as well?

If you honestly speak to anyone of us, I think we will honestly talk about how patriarchal women can be in India and how liberated men can be in India. There is patriarchy in their thoughts. There are lots of liberated men. Some college folks went in to watch the film because they thought there would be a lot of masala in the film – like, when they were asked, they say yeah, we thought there would be sex in the film and when they come out, they are disappointed with the lack of sex in the film. It talks about the problems women have, for example, mothers, and wives – the film made the men think about that. It is intended to make people more aware of what is happening around them.

It is very interesting also the way the characters were put together. And you almost weren’t able to do the film?

Yeah, how sad would that be.

But weren’t there any apprehensions?

Well, I was very apprehensive when I first read the script. Somewhere, I realized that I had nothing to lose. I had nothing to my credit in terms of a big film; I did not have a reputation or a perception built around my work. Like, she only does television, she only does theatre. Because, in India, unfortunately, we typecast actors very easily. Honestly, I only have one television show to my credit. I read the script and I was very apprehensive, but I spoke to Alankrita that I did want to do it – because I knew that there would never be a script like this.

And tell me about your character.

This is such a feisty character and it was so similar to how I am in life. She wants something more in life than just have a husband or a fiancé – which is like many of us in life. I thought I had to do this. I got a call from the casting team and they asked me if I could come and test and I was really surprised – they don’t waste time with the budget but they waited yaa – Alankrita was very sure of who she wanted to cast. Somehow, it worked for both of us even though there was the scheduling issue and I almost couldn’t do the film.

You said that Alankrita gave you the guidance required for the intimate scenes as they are very technical scenes to shoot but you were still apprehensive?

Yeah! It is definitely not romantic. I think, as a woman, she knew where we were coming from. She always made sure there were no unnecessary people around. She obviously did not want any candy floss. She said,  “I want things to look like the way they are when in the heat of the moment.” The first shot for me was the opening of the film, where I’m kissing my boyfriend – Alankrita said, “well, you’re in a relationship and you have an opportunity, so you would use it.” And what she said made sense. I remember that was the first time I was shooting with Vikrant, on set, with a lot of people. Suddenly, I felt really weird because it is okay on the script level, but now, I have to kiss the boy. When you start kissing the boy, you’re like…okay...At the end of the day, he is still a stranger. The faith that you have to have in your director has to be optimum. If there is anything that will go wrong, the director will always say “cut”. We were very sure that Alankrita would make sure the scene took the right direction.

Okay, and last question, more of a fun video in relation to the ridiculous things women constantly hear is making the rounds all over social media.

Yah! And it’s crazy that we hear this all the time and it has become so normal now.

So, what are some of the most annoying things that you hear as a female?

Whenever I’m in a bad mood, and they say, “oh, are you PMS-ing?” When I’m going out, the comments about my clothes (laughs). I used to hear a lot of “girls from good houses don’t stay out late.”


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