A FILM director whose movie has been controversially banned in India has said she has drawn strength from the support she has received in Scotland.

Lipstick Under My Burkha won the audience award at Glasgow Film Festival and is part of the highlights of the forthcoming Edinburgh Asian Film Festival.

Director Alankrita Shivastava told the National that winning the award was an affirmation of the rights of women across the world to tell their stories from their own point of view.

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“I felt so encouraged, and I felt so hopeful. I felt like the people of Glasgow were giving me the strength and courage to soldier on,” she said.

“I am determined to win this battle. And I keep going back to the thought that there are all these Scottish people who are rooting for the film to win through this. My gratitude for that support is hard to express in words. The Glasgow Film Festival will be etched in my memory forever.”

Shivastava added: “With the censorship issue in India, it was such an amazing feeling to see the Scottish audience supporting the film so wholeheartedly. It was cold and rainy, but both the screenings were sold out. I had the most engaging question and answer sessions with the audience.

“The Glasgow Film Festival is very prestigious. And that win is really significant.”

The National:

WHAT’S SO CONTROVERSIAL?

THE film is the story of four ordinary women in small town India who are chasing their freedom and dreams through secret acts of rebellion.

“In the context of Indian cinema, the film is important because it is made from a female point of view,” said Shivastava. “Unlike most of the dominant mainstream cinema, Lipstick Under My Burkha has a clearly female gaze. And perhaps the things the film talks about have rarely been discussed in cinema in India.”

Shivastava said that when she started making it she never thought it would take on such significance in the debate about feminism and freedom of expression in India.

“I was not conscious of the uniqueness of the film, until now I guess. I was just making a film I wanted to make, through my feminist perspective.”

Now, she said, the film had taken on a new meaning in the struggle for women to be able to tell their stories from their own point of view as well as contributing to the larger debate over women having agency over their lives, their bodies and their sexuality.

“As a woman I myself keep grappling with the feeling that I am not fully free,” she said. “That I am chained from within, even though there are no external restraints to my freedom. I often experience guilt and a lack of belief in myself for no apparent reason. I wanted to explore this feeling through characters who come from a different milieu — a world where there are external constraints to one’s freedom too.”

WHEN IS IT ON?

DR Ashvin Devasundaram, creative director of Edinburgh Asian Film Festival which runs from March 24- 26, said he was proud Lipstick Under My Burkha was part of the programme.

“The film censor board in India said it could not go on release in India as it was too female orientated,” he said. “It is totally ridiculous and there has been a huge outcry but not they are not budging so the film is really reliant on the international film festival circuit now. That is why we are proud to have it.

“It is a brilliant film and really entertaining. It explores women’s expressions of sexuality. They are all living in repressed circumstances in a very patriarchal society but within these bounds they find certain ways to express themselves and express their sexuality. I think that is what got the censors’ goat as it is an on screen emancipation which does not necessarily occur in the real world.”

The National:

WHAT’S THE FESTIVAL’S AIM?

NOW in its second year, the Edinburgh Asian Film Festival is part of the expansion of the London Asian Film Festival, Europe’s longest running Asian film festival.

“We are making a nationwide network but each festival will have its own creative voice,” said Devasundaram.

“We want primarily to bring relatively unseen films to Edinburgh. They are brilliant films which have won a plethora of awards on the film festival circuit but Asian films in mainstream cinemas tend to focus on Bollywood. The Asian Film Festival presents a one time opportunity to see films you might otherwise not have a chance to see.”

The opening gala screening features the richly humorous road movie Mango Dreams. Salim, a Muslim rickshaw driver takes an elderly Hindu doctor, an escapee of the British partition of India, for a final trip back to his former home in Pakistan. Sharing their haunting past with each other, the pair forge a warm-hearted friendship.

WHAT ELSE IS ON?

ANOTHER highlight is The Threshold, an emotional look at the day in the life of an older couple living in the scenic Himalayas whose own relationship is tested in the aftermath of their son’s wedding.

Mantostaan is a dark, historical satire on the 1947 India-Pakistan partition, based on the controversial short stories of critically-acclaimed Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto. The director Rahat Kazmi will be live in Edinburgh for an exclusive question and answer session after the screening.

Afghanistan’s official Oscar entry Utopia, follows an Afghan woman as she travels to the UK for artificial insemination. Complications arise when a British student at the infertility clinic decides to swap the donor semen for his own and the woman finds out that he is from a family with a long history of military conflict in her homeland. The film’s Aberdeen-based director Hassan Nazer will attend the Scottish premiere.

Lipstick Under My Burkha closes the festival.

For more information go to www.tonguesonfire.com/tof-uk-wide-expansion/edinburgh-asian-film-festival/