This is a strange scenario. I read review after review after review, every damn possible review of Dedh Ishqiya. Just to figure out one thing – to see if anyone has written about the homage scene in the film, and the inspiration behind the film’s spoiler, or scratched it beyond the surface. And i was extremely disappointed to see that not a single reviewer has mentioned it.
They didn’t get it?
They don’t know about it?
They haven’t read it?
Just because the director didn’t tell or it wasn’t mentioned in the press release?
Because, for me, that is the highlight of the film. The smartest scene in the film. And that *is* the film too. Strange. Seems like we are reading a group of philistines who have been raised on a limited staple diet and don’t know how to read a film beyond their radar. Not that such funny things has never happened in the past, but this should straight go to FunnyOrDie section. So which scene i am talking about?
SPOILER ALERT (Don’t read further if you haven’t seen the film yet and if you hate spoilers)
In the scene where both Naseer and Arshad’s hands are tied and they are watching Madhuri and Huma having fun, getting physical. Naseer looks at Arshad and says, Lihaaf maang le. Arshad looks up and smiles. And then we see just a big shadow on the wall which suggests physical intimacy between Madhuri and Huma’s characters. That’s the homage to Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf. The setting, Begum, homo-eroticism, huge shadow play – the elements and the incident is the same as in Lihaaf.
That’s not all, the entire back story of Madhuri’s husband is also from the same story. And the spoiler – their relationship and her back story is the core idea of the film. Rest of it has been just built up to cover this plot. So it can be called a really smart adaptation of the short story. Much respect for the writers of the film – Darab Farooqui, Abhishek Chaubey and Vishal Bhardwaj.
So why is it such a big fuss?
1. Because it involves Ismat Chughtai – one of the most eminent, progressive and feminist Urdu writers.
2. Because it involves Lihaaf (published in 1942) – the most popular and celebrated short story by Ismat Chughtai.
3. Because Lihaaf created a big controversy. Ismat Chughtai was charged with obscenity and was summoned by the Lahore court in 1944. She went to court, refused to apologise and won the case. Click here to read a funny excerpt about the case from her memoir. And if possible, do watch Naseer’s play on the same which also includes Manto’s trial.
4. And most importantly, because it’s still relevant. Chughtai’s story dealt with homo-eroticism and lesbianism which created a huge ruckus then. And today, when we are still debating gay rights and article 377 in India, a mainstream Hindi film brings the subject on the big screen with mainstream actors, and connects it so smartly to such an important and controversial literary work, and to its history. And we have no fucking clue! Lilaah!
Strangely, it seems most reviewers didn’t even get the historical, social, or literary context. If i was the boss, i would have surely asked for some explanation, rejection, and resignation. Because what’s the point of reviewing films if one doesn’t know where one is coming from – our art, culture, literature and such an important bit of history. It’s utterly shocking and baffling to say the least. It might sound extremely snobbish, but am fine with me being accused of snobbery than being philistine, especially when we are talking about Ismat Aapa and Bhardwaj’s cinema.
– You can find the English translation of the story here or here or in the embedded link below (translation by different writers). Do read. And do remember it was published in 1942.
– Found another adaptation on the net – a short film based on the same story
– If you were born and brought up in some other planet, Ismat Chughtai’s wiki page is here.
– To know what we thought about the film, click here.