A documentary set in Firanghi Mahal, Lucknow, an institution for rationalist Islamic scholarship founded in the late 17th century. Through two women, Sughra Fatema and her niece Khadija Ansari, it tells the unknown stories of women and their struggles to find their own ways of being in a time of dramatic changes. One wrote poetry to express herself and the other became a student activist who went to jail for being a revolutionary. The film is an ode to humanism and the indomitable spirit of women who refuse to give up the search for a meaningful life.
About the Director:
Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught history at Miranda House, Delhi University, where she also curated film screenings of documentary films from the late 70s onwards. She has recently made three films: ‘A Quiet Little Entry’ on women’s history and the small archives of unknown people; a second film on the 1960s and 70s in India, and the way political and social events at that time shaped individual women’s lives titled ‘Fragments of a Past’, and her third film ‘Ek Inquilab Aur Aaya’ which dwells on the multiple histories of Muslim women which we rarely see in documentary cinema.
This might be one of the first films I watched about Muslim women's history though limited to Firangi Mahal. Prof. Uma is an amazing personality and she mesmerised her audience with her witty answers. A good number of her students were in the room who enriched the Q&A nicely - sharing about gender and history in India and Lucknow, in particular.
The film which recreates the past making it a docu-drama film holds the attention of the audience by moving the stories of two women - Urdu poet Sughra Fatima and her niece Khadija Ansari - amazingly independent thinking women. I realised how little I (and we) know about these women - am there are so many untold stories to be shared of such women. One question I was wondering was about the name Farangi Mahal. Anand Patwardhan nicely raised this issue during the Q&A sessio. The word Firang (meaning foreigners) refers to French owner who was the first owner of this mahal (palace), according Uma, director of this film. It became the center of Islamic learning as well as cultural centre. The film nicely travels the time based on memories, poems by Sughra and walking down the road with Khadija Ansari, the rebellious one, telling her story and involvement in Khilafat movement and loads of emotions.
I must admit that though I've not heard about Uma Chakravarti earlier, but she is definitely going to be one of those role model heroes - a young woman in her 70s directing such amazing films. Such an inspiring evening with wonderful people makes a good memory.
Scroll.in has published this film's review, read here: https://scroll.in/reel/850967/an-urdu-poet-her-activist-niece-and-two-faces-of-rebellion-at-lucknows-farangi-mahal
*Vikalp@Prithvi is an initiative of filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Simontini Dhuru and Chandini Parekh.
They organise documentary film screenings often with Q&A with the film director
Every last Friday of the month at 7 pm
At Prithvi House, Opposite Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Juhu, Bombay.
Entry Free on a First-Come-First-Seated Basis
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