First Look of Rahat Kazmi’s Film Based On Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf Unveiled at Cannes

Cannes 2018
Written by Rochell Pereira

Lihaaf is one of Ismat Chughtai’s most celebrated works and we can now see it come to life on the big screen. The first look poster of Rahat Kazmi’s feature film adaptation of this brave short story was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival on 12th May. Co-produced by Kazmi, Oscar-winning producer Marc Baschet and others, Lihaaf will feature Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sonal Sehgal, Namita Lal, Mir Sarwar and Shoib Nikash in key roles.

Lihaaf tells the story of the lonely Begum Jaan who looks for comfort and solace in her masseuse Rabbo. It is told from the perspective of a small girl who visits her aunty, Begum Jaan. The teenage girl is traumatised when she learns of the nature of her aunt’s relationship with Rabbo. This Urdu short story, written in 1942, explores homosexuality in feudal Indian households.

The director had the following to say:

“Her story becomes a powerful critique of the contemporary society of rich land owning men lost in the pursuit of their male-centric pleasures to the utter neglect of their women folk, who then sought their joys from their female company.”

When it was released, it caused tremendous controversy and Chughtai was required to defend her work in court. She refused to apologise and defended herself for three years in a Lahore court. Ultimately, she won.

The film goes by the same title as the short story – Lihaaf. The script for the film has been co-written by Rahat Kazmi and Sonal Sehgal. Tannishtha Chatterjee will be playing the role of the teenage niece while Sonal Sehgal and Namita Lal play Begum Jaan and Rabbo respectively.

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Rochell Pereira

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