The idea of wearing a swimsuit for women is mostly associated with stress. The worries about being fully waxed, to being in the best shape ever, to what will the neighborhood aunty say about all the “exposure,” to wearing it with caution where there are no stray men letching because the female figure naturally demands and obviously revels for the male gaze.
Due to the above socially created stigma, most women, especially those of an older age, find it excrutiatingly difficult to not only wear a swim suit, but even be spotted shopping for one. Ratna Pathak Shah’s endearing character of the neighborhood ‘Bua-ji’ is no different from the many women who face this issue in real life. However, Buji does the unthinkable, she not only procures a swimsuit albeit in her own manner that has all the works like frills, shorts attached, sleeves to cover the arms that would be a crime to expose etc. But, she does what most women her age cannot or would not do, she wears it and she wears it with pride and an unmistable glint in her eyes that symbolises freedom, freedom to wear what you want without being judged and without the fear of people ogling at you like you are an extra terrestial creature flown in from Mars. There are multiple scenes in LUMB that make you sit up, take notice, and even clap and cheer with the Lipstick Ladies but the scene where Ratna Pathak Shah swims sans any inhibitions is sure to make you clap till your hands hurt.
Speaking on this monumental moment in the film, director Alankrita Shrivastava says that, “ Water against one’s skin is such an amazing feeling. Indian women too love dips into the water, be it the pool or the ocean. However, what stops them from immersing themselves in the pool is the fact that they have to wear a swim suit. We ensured that the swim suit that is worn by Ratna’s character was well researched, that it had the necessary shorts, sleeves, frills, bright colors that older Indian women are often spotted in. Our costume designer did a fabulous job of creating the perfect swimsuit. And what makes the scene truly special is Ratna’s portrayal of a woman’s struggle to shed her inhibitions as she enters the pool. And the immense freedom she experiences when she feels the water against her skin.”