Priyakanta Laishram’s “Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup?” is an award-winning educational film of 2018 that is based on gender neutrality. The film is known for its unconventional topic that deals with gender fluidity and the stigma between boys and makeup.
Although men extravagantly wore makeup without being judged or treated differently in ancient times, somewhere in the middle of the 1800s, men who had a preference for jewelry and makeup were forced to live in a toxic environment because society had begun to assume that makeup was only worn by women.
The stigma against men wearing makeup has only begun to fade, and in the last five or so years, it has only really started to become normal again for men to appear in advertisements for cosmetics and dress in gender-neutral clothing. With the rise of new filmmakers, beauty bloggers, and designers, things have started to improve gradually, but for the better, becoming more inclusive and open-minded.
Priyakanta Laishram, a Manipuri filmmaker, is one such individual who revolutionized the idea of gender-neutral fashion and men’s makeup back in 2017-2018 with the award-winning English-Manipuri educational film, Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup?, which also had its premiere at St. Regis, Mumbai, in 2018.
Laishram, who experienced bullying and humiliation for his propensity for wearing makeup when he was a teenager, was bold enough to take a stand and create this film, which became one of the first Indian films and the first film in Northeast India to discuss gender neutrality and men’s make-up.
When asked about the inspiration behind the movie, Priyakanta Laishram responded that it wasn’t just about the make-up or the gender-neutral attire, but also about inspiring and motivating people to be who they are by challenging the deeply ingrained stereotypical beliefs and practices that are applied to humans and which, in turn, obstruct and suffocate their ability to live their lives.
Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup? succeeds in conveying its intended message in a very slick and straightforward narrative style that writer and director Priyakanta Laishram had adopted. The film has the power to make anyone reevaluate every small error and slur we make inadvertently when speaking to others daily without giving it a second thought.
The strong message it conveys to the audience is that even a small amount of inclusivity, empathy, and tolerance could make the world a much better place to live. The film’s depiction of makeup’s evolution from ancient times to the idea of makeup in the present day may help viewers realize that makeup has always been gender-neutral and that the world has only become intolerable to so many things because of patriarchal ideas that have been ingrained in people’s minds.
While it is encouraging to see several well-known public figures from the Indian fashion and film industries speaking out about the issue and offering their support for a more inclusive world in the film, it is the boys and men who wear makeup and gender-neutral clothing in real life who become a huge asset and a scoring point of the film by featuring in it and sharing their real-life experiences.
Given that Priyakanta himself was a victim of bullying and harassment in his early years, it is commendable that he included these boys and men in his film.
After the film and its promotional clips went viral in 2018 on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, it is safe to say that Priyakanta Laishram’s Who Said Boys Can’t Wear Makeup? undoubtedly paved the way for all the boys and men who previously lacked a voice. This is especially true because the number of male beauty bloggers and Instagram influencers has also significantly increased in Manipur since then, becoming much more inclusive and diverse.
Along with Priyakanta Laishram, the film also stars Bala Hijam, Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia, Inder Bajwa, Peden Ongmu Namgyal, Strela Luwang, and Rajkumari Linthoisana. The film was produced, written, edited, and directed by Priyakanta Laishram under his production company, Priyakanta Productions. The music was composed by Isaac, and the cinematography was done by Sachit Gurung and Bryan Marshall.