Holy Rights fetches National Award for indie filmmaker Farha Khatun
Filmmaker Farha Khatun bags her second National Award for capturing the extraordinary stories of Muslim women in film
Independent filmmaker Farha Khatun bagged her second National Award this year for her film Holy Rights after I Am Bonnie in 2018. Holy Rights chronicles the lives of female qazis (a magistrate or judge in Islamic law) in the country and is a direct fallout of the Triple Talaq Bill. The documentary film, a solo endeavour of Farha, is making all the right noises at global film festivals. The ecstatic filmmaker tells us about this ‘deeply personal film’. Excerpts:
This is your second National Award. How does it feel?
It is a different kind of feeling; something I can’t express in words. I didn’t expect to win but I guess my parents and colleagues were pretty confident. So, when I called my parents to share the news, they were like: see, I told you! When I see their confidence in my work, it fills me with joy, pride and gratefulness.
Tell us about the film.
The film primarily follows Safia, a deeply religious Muslim woman from Bhopal, driven by her belief that because of the patriarchal mindset of the interpreters of sharia, Muslim women are denied equality and justice in the community. She joins a programme that trains women as qazis, (Muslim clerics who interpret and administer the personal law), which is traditionally a male bastion. Because of Safia Apa (elder sister in Urdu), several other women join the programme. The film comments on the arbitrariness of the‚ triple talaq practice and other landmark political and legal moments too find reference in the film. I have tried to underscore the changing socio-political scenario that impacts these women’s lives. We had our international premiere at International Film Festival in Ger many and it got selected at Indian Panorama (IFFI) and at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK). We also got some awards including the best documentary award and best cinematography award at VIWFF, Vancouver.
What inspired you to work on a topic like this?
It is a deeply personal film for me. My journey as a Muslim woman made me focus more on women’s lives, to see the world through their stories, to interpret everyday realities through their eyes. Gender serves as a critical lens in most of my work. This film becomes more pertinent as it foregrounds the voices of women as they fight censorship both within and outside their communities.
Tell us about the team behind the film.
Filmmaking is teamwork and I had a fantastic one who executed my ideas into a film. Abhisikta Dasgupta, a dearest friend told me about the qazi training that made me initiate the film. Among the first collaborators are Madhuri Routh, the first women camera person in sports from Asia. Then there is Biswajit Das, the associate director who made things easier. The two camera persons Debalina and Priyanka Biswas heightened the visual quality of the film and my producer Priyanka More (Mosaic in Films), stood rock solid all the time by my side. Our editor Sankha needs a mention too so does the sound designer Sabyasachi Pal. Music director Santajit Chatterjee, Mixing Engineer Anirban, DI by Uttam completed the film. The post-production studio partner, Cherrypix Studios played a vital role. Lastly, the poster designer Sunayan Roy is a fantastic artist whose design actually helped us to create interest during the promotion.
What other projects are you working on?
I just completed the rough cut of a documentary on bhistis (water carriers of old Calcutta). I am also working on another documentary. Future plans? I would love to work on issue-based films both fiction and non-fiction. I love to explore the stories which I come across over time and convert them into films.