The celebrated Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai extensively wrote about freedom of speech, femininity, class conflict, homosexuality, and expression of female sexuality: The subjects continue to be as relevant today as they were when she first started out in the 1930s. The early phase of her writing career was marred by an obscenity trial where Chughtai had to defend herself in the Lahore Court in the year 1944—an incident which led to much controversy and uproar. The obscenity charges were leveled against Chughtai for a 1942 Urdu short story published in the Urdu literary journal “Adab-i-Latif”. Titled “Lihaaf” (aka “The Quilt”), the short story explores the theme of homoeroticism. Interestingly, Chughtai wasn’t put on trial alone. Another legendary Urdu writer was put on trial for obscenity alongside her. If you haven’t guessed it already, the writer was none other than Saadat Hasan Manto. Chughtai has given a detailed account of the trail in memoir “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan” (“A Life in Words: Memoir”).
Rahat Kazmi’s period drama film “Lihaaf: The Quilt” which is being streamed by Voot Select as part of Voot Select Film Festival, a direct to OTT Film Festival, is not just a retelling of the story of “Lihaaf” as one would expect, but it also focuses on the aforementioned obscenity trial. The story begins when Chughtai, living in Mumbai, is summoned by the Lahore Court. Considering the charges of obscenity to be totally preposterous, Chughtai refuses to sign on the orders at first. She just cannot believe that the Lahore Court has actually put her on a trial for obscenity for a story like “Lihaaf” that makes no direct suggestion to any sexual act. Everything in the story is so subtle that it’s all up to the reader’s interpretation. That’s the exact argument that her lawyer makes in the court. Chughtai is essayed by Tannistha Chatterjee who never misses a note during her brilliant performance. The part of Manto is played with a refreshing playfulness by Shoib Shah who ensures that the controversial writer isn’t presented as totally humorless like was the case with Nawawuddin Siddiqui’s Manto (as good as the portrayal was) in the Nandita Das film.
The fact that Chughtai’s works continue to be as relevant today as they were several decades ago proves that our society hasn’t evolved much. Burdened by the weight of centuries old patriarchy, the women are still fighting the same fights, over and over again. Now, “Lihaaf” remains the most popular of all of Ismat Chughtai’s stories. While at the time it’s mostly received attention for its suggestion of lesbianism, it also deals with the solitary life of a neglected wife in the feudal society. Chughtai’s thought-provoking short story is considered to be a landmark not just in Urdu literature but also in modern Indian literature which continues to see sex and homosexuality as a taboo.
The story of “Lihaaf” is told through the point of view of a small girl who is temporarily left by her mother to live with Begum Jan. The screenplay of Rahat Rahat’s film, co-written by Sonal Sehgal and Rahat himself, assumes the young girl to be none other than Ismat Chughtai herself. Begum’s depressing life after marriage to a Nawab in the 1920s Agra is intercut with Chughtai’s obscenity trail in the Lahore Court. Begum’s husband is much older than her. He is highly respected by those around her for never having any affairs with prostitutes—a trait that most Nawabs are notorious for. But it is soon revealed that it is because of his attraction to younger men. Meanwhile, the lonely Begum gets ill but is saved by Rabbo, her masseuse, who is very skilled with her hands. When the young Ismat Chughtai is left at Begum Jan’s place by her mother, she begins to make some interesting observations about Begum Jan and Rabbo. At night, she gets petrified by the great shadows formed by the exaggerated movements of Begum Jan’s quilt. Also, she is perplexed by Begum Jan’s mood swings and odd behavior when Rabbo goes away to stay with her family for a few days.
The film’s co-writer Sonal Sehgal, who previously worked with Rahat Kazmi on ‘Mantostaan’, also essays the complex part of Begum Jaan. As part of her preparation, Sehgal cut herself off from the world as she wanted to feel the Begum’s pain and loneliness. Begum Jaan is a victim of her circumstances as well as a perpetrator of crime against the helpless young girl. During the shoot, Sehgal requested the entire cast and crew to leave her alone as she restricted herself to her hotel room at all times except during her takes. And it shows on the screen. Mir Sarwar is also superb in the role of the Nawab. To his credit, Kazmi succeeds in bringing the story of the same sex relationship between a noblewoman and her masseuse back to life in all its glory almost eight decades after it was first published. Here is a film that needs to be watched.
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SIDDHANT BRINGS A LUXURIOUS HARLEY DAVIDSON HOME
MUMBAI: Actor Siddhant Chaturvedi recently brought home a luxurious Harley Davidson Sportster S, making him the first person in India to have the bike.
The ‘Gehraiyaan’ actor took to his social media to share the news of the same with his fans and followers. The actor, who rose to fame with MC Sher from Gully Boy, has certainly come a long way in the matter of just 3 years, which is a rather remarkable feat.
On the work front, Siddhant is currently gearing up for Shakun Batra’s next ‘Gehraiyaan’. He also has ‘Phone Booth’, ‘Yudhra’ and ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’ in the pipeline.
SONAL CHAUHAN TO PLAY LEAD IN AKKINENI NAGARJUNA’S THE GHOST
MUMBAI: Akkineni Nagarjuna’s ‘The Ghost’ is a much-anticipated film ever since its announcement. Earlier it was said that the Bollywood star, Jacqueline Fernandez was cast for the film however, the word on the block is that the talented Sonal Chauhan will be playing the lead opposite Nagarjuna instead of Jacqueline.
That’s right, Sonal Chauhan fans are in for a treat as they get to see their favourite actress on the silver screen. A source close to the film said “Makers felt Sonal Chauhan was the best fit for the lead role opposite Nagarjuna in ‘The Ghost’. They felt both the actors Sonal and Nagarjuna would make for a fine on-screen pair and that’s when they approached her. The two are definitely going to portray some great chemistry in the film.”
SALMAN TO FEATURE IN GURU RANDHAWA’S NEW SONG
MUMBAI: Superstar Salman Khan will be seen flaunting his acting skills in singer Guru Randhawa’s new song ‘Main Chala’.
Female vocals of the track have been lent by Lulia Vantur, and the female artist who will be featuring alongside Salman is Pragya Jaiswal. On Tuesday, Guru Randhawa took to Instagram and shared the update with his fans.
“Love will be in air with #MainChala! Song releasing on 22nd January. Stay Tuned,” he wrote.
He tagged Salman Khan and Pragya in the comments. Produced by Salma Khan, the romantic track will be out on January 22.
ARJUN MATHUR TO ADARSH GOURAV: HERE’S LOOKING AT THE TOP THREE OTT NEWSMAKERS
MUMBAI: The past few years have been a revelation for Indian cinema with the influx of OTT content. From handling an out-of-box idea to bringing forth a crucial issue in the limelight – our actors are going all out with their digital ventures!
While we saw some of the finest performances on the streaming platforms last year, there are a few names that define the space with their path-breaking performances, unconventional takes, and impeccable cinema sense. So, here’s rounding up the top four OTT newsmakers.
ARJUN MATHUR: You cannot have a list of the ground-breaking stars without Arjun Mathur. The international Emmy Award-nominated actor has pushed the boundaries with his non-conformist choices, like playing a gay wedding planner in Made In Heaven or shooting a show in a lockdown with The Gone Game. Now, he has Made In Heaven S2, Gone Game 2, Lord Curzon Ki Haveli, and Lionsgate Play’s next series.
PRATIK GANDHI: Pratik Gandhi became a household name with his blockbuster series, Scam 1992. The actor earned massive acclaim for his apt and flamboyant performance of Harshad Mehta. Later, he stunned the audience with his brave selections – Bhavai and Shimmy. Coming up next for the actor are Atithi Bhooto Bhava, Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan?, and Six Suspects.
ADARSH GOURAV: With his solid performance in The White Tiger, Adarsh Gourav has made it into everyone’s watchlist. The new-age actor bagged the BAFTA nomination for his performance and is all set to step into Hollywood with his next venture, Extrapolations, starring Meryl Streep.
PANDIT BIRJU MAHARAJ WAS MY GURU BUT ALSO MY FRIEND: MADHURI
NEW DELHI: Behind every successful person, there are unfailing efforts of teachers. Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj played the role of that guru in actor Madhuri Dixit Nene’s life.
After learning about the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj, Madhuri, on Monday, took to Twitter and opened up about her relationship with him. “He was a legend but had a child like innocence. He was my guru but also my friend. He taught me the intricacies of dance and Abhinay but never failed to make me laugh at his funny anecdotes,” she wrote.
“He has left behind grieving fans and students but also left a legacy we will all carry forward. Thank you Maharajji for everything you taught me in dance along with humility, elegance and grace. Koti koti pranam,” she added.
Alongside the note, Madhuri posted a throwback picture of her doing mukhdas with Pandit Birju Maharaj. For the unversed, Pandit Birju Maharaj, who breathed his last on Monday, had worked with Madhuri in films like ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, ‘Devdas’ and ‘Dedh Ishqiya’.
Bollywood in awe of Pushpa & Allu Arjun
Mumbai: Pushpa star Allu Arjun, the talk of the town, has absolutely impressed
his fans,audiences, actors in the South and also many bigwigs in Bollywood. The
stylish star with his emphatic performance has won the hearts of many in the Hindi
speaking regions. Now, Bollywood is all praise for Pushpa Raj aka Allu Arjun and
the movie, reiterate what the stylish star has said in the film, ‘Pushpa is not flower,
it is fire’. Completely entranced by Allu Arjun’s splendid work in “Pushpa”,
and also as the Hindi version in the North belt alone grossed Rs 100 crore
in box office collections in 25 days of its run, actors and big producers
in Bollywood have taken notice, and are now speaking about the
stylish star’s ability to charm viewers.
At a time when Allu Arjun has amassed a big fan following in
Hindi-speaking regions, there are reports of Bollywood producers lining up to cast him in their next Hindi films. Also, many
Hindi actors are showing interest to act in his upcoming pan-India movies. It is also reportedly said that producers are looking
to get Hindi dubbing or remake rights of the icon star’s upcoming films as they feel he will dominate the cinema space now.
The passion Allu Arjun put into his Pushpa Raj character is
so evident that people are just captivated by him.
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