Rarely do a movie and real life circumstances get juxtaposed as in the case of Triple Talaq, the issue that has rocked the Muslim community in India.
Nikah, the hard-hitting and forthright 1982 blockbuster produced and directed by BR Chopra, in which Chopra questions manipulation of the Sharia law on divorce and its misuse in terms of instant Talaq in Indian Muslim society, viz. practice of Talaq, Talaq, Talaq!
It must be acknowledged that Chopra handled the very sensitive and controversial issue in his own, unique deft manner, highlighting the social evil regarding practice of triple talaq or divorce in the Muslim community. And coming as it did over three decades ago, the issue raised by Chopra touched a million hearts and a raw nerve among the fundamentalists.
When BR Chopra almost ruined lakhs of marriages
Not many know Chopra’s Nikaah was originally titled Talaq, Talaq, Talaq by BR himself. But it so happened that by chance one of his Muslim friends came to know about it and sent an SOS to BR. Both met where the friend told the film maker what hell would be unleashed if the film is released with the delegated title.
Presume a married Muslim man goes to see the movie and back home his wife asks him where he was then he will reply that he went to see Talaq, Talaq, Talaq!
Or he gets tickets to the movie and wife asks which movie he will reply Talaq, Talaq, Talaq!
That is when BR Chopra changed the title to Nikah. The movie with the renewed title was a runaway hit and won Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue.
Salma Agha plays the central character of Nilofar, a university student. Her classmate Haider, played by Raj Babbar is madly in love which is an unrequited one since Nilofar is engaged to and married to Wasim, played by Deepak Parashar.
Theirs is not a happy marriage, and the husband is the culprit here throughout for making her life hell, and just one heated argument between the two is enough for Wasim to utter the dreadful T word three times. This means that Wasim has rendered Nilofar ‘Haram’ for himself in just a few moments by saying Talaq three times, without fulfilling the very strict and fundamental conditions set up by the Islamic sharia.
This happened within a year of the marriage, in fact on the occasion of their first marriage anniversary.
Nilofar marries Haider and Wasim realizes the blunder he has made and wants Nilofer back but it won’t be possible since she has remarried. He consults a Qazi (Muslim scholar) who gives him the solution which is nothing less than melted lead being poured down his ears.
Son, you got to pay the price for the gaffe and ignorance of the Islamic laws which you so convincingly abused to throw your lawfully wedded wife out of your life.
It is not an easy solution, it is ‘Halala,’ which requires the divorced woman to marry another man, consummate the marriage and then her second husband divorces her so that her first husband can remarry her, all this to be in the proper ambit of the law.
The message of the movie is loud and clear; men, you can’t get rid of your wives merely by uttering Talaq, talaq, talaq and for this stupendous and bold experiment BR Chopra deserves many accolades.
Majority of the audience were burqa-clad Muslim women, and not surprisingly they completely identified with the protagonist who thundered like a tigress when she was wronged and questioned the practice of Talaq Talaq Talaq served on a thorny platter.
When Haider ‘offers,’ or rather asks Nilofer to go back to Waseem, Nilofer’s retort cuts like a scalpel, stabs like a poniard, “How conveniently you men accept and reject, marry and divorce, love and abhor, use and throw a woman as if she is not a living being. Is woman man’s property?”
She, on their behalf, also put both her previous and current husbands in the dock and questions them until both admitted that they have wronged the woman in their own sweet sour ways.
Reference to the Shah Bano Case of 1986
The Shah Bano case rocked the social and political fabric of India in the mid-80’s. The case is considered a milestone as far as Muslim women's search for justice is concerned.
Shah Bano, a 60-year-old woman approaches the court asking for maintenance from her husband who had divorced her. The court ruled that Shah Bano was entitled to maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (with an upper limit of Rs. 500 a month) like any other Indian woman.
Fearing backlash from the Muslim community, the then Congress government enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 under immense pressure from Muslim bodies. The Act was seen as discriminatory as it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which women of other faiths had recourse to under secular law.