The film recently won the National award in the non-feature category for the best film on social issues.
Farha Khatun was only 10 when she first heard of triple talaq; it was a summer morning and one of her aunts had come home for a visit. “She was very disturbed and broke down in front of the family. She had got into a fight with her husband, and in a fit of rage, he said talaq twice. Before he could pronounce it the third time, she covered his mouth and thus their marriage was saved. That incident was very traumatising and the memory always stayed with me,” she recollects.
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Now 32, Farha has won the National Award this year for her Urdu language documentary Holy Rights, which discusses the issue of triple talaq. The award is in the non-feature category for the best film on social issues.“For me, Holy Rights is about woman’s rights and of them taking control of the spaces which was always under the gatekeeping of the males in the society. This recognition is encouraging and I am honoured,” says the Midnapur-based (West Bengal) filmmaker.
Holy Rights took her six years to make. It revolves around Safia Akhtar, a 58-year-old Muslim woman from Bhopal, who joins a program organised by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan to be a quasi. “Safia is very articulate and also recites poetry. I felt that her poems would help lighten the serious mood of the documentary,” says Farha. The film also follows tales of women who raised their voices against triple talaq.
Holy Rights is Farha’s third documentary, and was first screened at the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival, Delhi. It has also travelled to the 15th Jogja Netpac Asian Film Festival — Indonesia, 51st IFFI — Goa, Dharamshala International Film Festival 2020, 54th HOF International Film Festival, Germany, 26th Kolkata International Film Festival, and the 22nd Madurai Film Festival, etc.
“In these festivals, many women came to me and told me how their perception of Muslim women changed after watching the film. It is fulfilling to know that I was able to show the different layers of these women through my work.”
Farha’s first film was the documentary I am Bonnie, which also won the National Award for best film on social issues in 2018. “It is on the life of a transgender footballer from West Bengal. It was a very challenging project which required extensive research and travel.” Her second was The Jungle Man Loiya — on a man named Loiya who created a forest in his village.
Farha is now working on a documentary film on the water carriers of Kolkata. “I will also be doing a few public service advertisements. The work is in progress,” she concludes.