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Questioning an unfair practice

To spread mass awareness on social issues which he was not always free to do in his official capacity, former IPS officer Humayun Kabir turns director for Aaleya exploring the unjustified custom of triple talaq.

Shoma A Chatterji |

When a top police officer takes up the directorial wand for a feature film, it is no surprise that he will take up a social issue that could be controversial. This ideology applies very aptly to Humayun Kabir, who is not only a former IPS officer but also a noted litterateur. He has now ventured into direction with his first film Aaleya produced by Macneill Engineering Ltd and Pradip Chuirwal among others.

Filmmaker Aniket Chattopadhyay is creative director of this ambitious project. The screenplay is by Padmanava Dasgupta. Aaleya is concerned with a strong woman question around the unfair practice of one-sided triple talaq pronounced by a Muslim husband when he wants to divorce his wife. Aaleya is a minor Muslim girl who is married against her wishes to a man of her parents’ choice.

She questions the one-sided custom, legitimised by Muslim marriage laws, that when the bride has the right to say “kabul” during the nikaah ceremony, why is she not given the same right in case of talaq? How and why does the husband have the right to utter talaq thrice, according to his wish on an impulse or on the spur of the moment and reduce his wife’s life into debris she cannot come out of? But instead of getting an answer, she is punished by the powers-that-be.

The film has been shot extensively on locations around Taki, Hasnabad, Deganga and other places in Basirhat and once last July, the shooting had to be pushed back by reason of disturbances in the area.

“The desire to do something to create and spread awareness on social issues was there at the back of my mind for a long time. Then, I felt that cinema is the ideal platform to express my thoughts and this film is my first attempt to bring to the fore, a significant social issue that, I hope, will spread awareness among the mass,” said Kabir.

Aaleya is a woman-centric film in more ways than one. The sub-inspector in charge of unravelling the tragedy that happens is also a woman named Sumana who chances upon the case. Sumana has been portrayed by Tanusree Chakraborty who said, “This is a character I found extremely challenging because I have never done anything like this before. I had to learn to ride a two-wheeler and I did not know how.

This role of a rough-and-tough policewoman is far removed from the glamorous roles that most often come my way and for this, I am really grateful to the director and his team.”

Filmmaker and actor Koushik Ganguly has also essayed an important role in the film. Actor Priyanka Sarkar portrayed the role of Aaleya. Others in the cast are Kharaj Mukherjee as a police officer, Shayoni Ghosh and Ankita Charkaborty.

It is an intriguing story about how an old case opens up when Sumana is transferred to Hasnabad and learns of the murder of her childhood friend Aaleya from old dust-ridden files and proceeds to investigate into the mystery of her murder some time ago.

The film is not just about Aaleya and triple talaq but it fans out to become an investigative thriller also. Throughout the narrative, other areas such as the evil of child marriage, violation of women’s rights with references to the Gujarat riots has also been touched upon.

Chattopadhyay said that the regional censor board had objected to the use of six words and has reportedly advised for six modifications that include muting the word “Gujarat” used twice in the film, “Ahmedabad”, “Jai Shri Ram”, “kafer” and “trishuley genthe.” “So we have muted these words though it is clear even in the muted form. But it doesn’t disturb the film’s message in any way,” he said. Alongside opening of the closed file of Aaleya’s murder, the film also maps the evolution of Sumona, the woman who opens these old files and discovers the truth and this changes her as a person, a friend and a woman, much beyond what demands are placed on her as a police woman.

Kabir, in his profession, has triumphed over all controversies successfully and emerged as one committed to spread awareness through cinema which he is not freely able to do in his official capacity. He began with writing novels and stories and one of these has become the base of the film Aaleya.

Summing up, he said, “Nothing is shown against any religion. The mention of the Gujarat riots is like what we say in general. That’s what I have shown in the film. The film is neither political nor about communal disharmony. It is a film that sheds light on some outdated practices and customs in society that victimises certain sections of people which is a violation of human rights.”