Oscar-winning producer set to make Ismat Chughtai’s short Lihaaf for big screen


Tannishtha Chatterjee roped in to play the protagonist in Ismat Chughtai’s celebrated short, Lihaaf, to be backed by Marc Baschet

Tannishtha Chatterjee
Tannishtha Chatterjee

Famous Urdu novelist Ismat Chughtai’s short, Lihaaf (The Quilt) will be rendered for the big screen by producer-director Rahat Kazmi, with Oscar-winning producer Marc Baschet also stepping in to back the venture, along with other Indian producers. Unveiling the first look at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival with filmmaker Subhash Ghai in attendance, the makers announced the casting of Tannishtha Chatterjee as Chughtai in the film, which also stars Sonal Sehgal, Namita Lal, Mir Sarwar and Shoib Nikash.

Ashish Wagh, Subhash Ghai, Marc Baschet, Golda Sellam, Namita Lal, Rahat Kazmi and Rishi Bhutani
Ashish Wagh, Subhash Ghai, Marc Baschet, Golda Sellam, Namita Lal, Rahat Kazmi and Rishi Bhutani

Baschet tells mid-day that he was first introduced to the story at the Film Bazaar in Goa last year. “I was struck by the theme and decided to follow the development of the film. Golda Sellam of Cinelink France, now a consultant on the film, also heard the narration from Namita and decided to be part of the team. What I like about the story is that it is a narrative of a true event in Ismat’s life, one that occurred when she was in her teens, and stayed in a feudal family for a short while,” he says.

Applauding the fact that the film deals with a subject — of same-sex relationships — which is still considered taboo in parts of the world, Baschet says, “Ismat was ahead of her time, which is why I am not surprised that she was slapped with a legal notice for depicting obscenity in her story. However, she refused to apologise and defended herself for three years in a Lahore court. Ultimately, she won.”

Ismat Chughtai
Ismat Chughtai

Chronicling the story of the relationship between a neglected Begum and her masseuse, seen through the eyes of a teenager, director Kazmi says, “Her story is a powerful critique of the contemporary society of rich men, who are lost in the pursuit of their male-centric pleasures, and neglect their women. The latter then sought joy from their female company.” The film is expected to release later this year.

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