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Lihaaf, a short story by Ismat Chugtai has been adapted into a film by the same name by Rahat Kazmi. The film’s first poster was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 2018.

The Urdu story which was published in 1942 had stirred controversy and a case was filed against Ismat Chugtai for obscene content. Lihaaf spoke of two women, Begum Jan and her masseuse, Rabbo. Chugtai portrayed the two woman as having a relationship with homosexual undertones and this upset the ‘morality’ of the people of the time. It openly talked about sex and of the loneliness of a housewife. Ismat won the court case and Lihaaf became her most famous work.

Oscar-winning producer Marc Baschett, who is one of the producers of the film said, ‘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 wrote on themes like female sexuality and femininity, middle-class gentility, and class conflict, often from a Marxist perspective. She was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1976.

Chughtai’s Lihaaf is told from the perspective of a small girl who visits her aunty, Begum Jan and lives with her for a few days. Through her, the reader gets to know that Begum Jan’s husband is gay and that there is something ‘unusual’ in Begum Jan’s relationship with Rabbo. Lihaaf means a quilt in Urdu.

Lihaaf features Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sonal Sehgal, Namita Lal, Mir Sarwar and Shoib Nikash in key roles. It has been co-written by Rahat Kazmi and Sonal Sehgal.

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