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Taslima Nasrin semi-biopic wins favour of fans

Fans have reacted favourably to a fictionalised semi-biopic of controversial Bangladeshi author and social activist Taslima Nasrin, which was premiered at the Mumbai International Film Festival on Monday.

After many snuffed-out attempts by filmmakers, Indian actor-turned-director Churni Ganguly successfully brought the life of the former physician, living in exile since 1994, on screen. The film – “Nirbashito” alternatively called “Banished” – is inspired by Taslima and her pet cat, Minu.

“Great news!” one fan exclaimed, after Taslima shared a link to the film’s trailer via Facebook. “This is an amazing (piece of) work done by Churni Ganguly,” said another.

Yet another reacted to the “punishment” hitherto received by the author for her bold remarks. “That the punishment of telling the truth can be so severe is evidenced by the life of Nasreen Taslima,” she said.

In the film, directed by Churni Ganguly, Minu is called Baghini (tigress). The author is, however, not named anywhere in the film. That did not dampen Taslima’s joy. Speaking to Times of India from New York, she said, “I feel relieved the film was finished and released in India. It is a victory for me. It’s a political success.”

“‘Nirbashito’ is more than a film to me. It is an assertion of freedom of expression and human rights. My heartfelt love for Churni and her director-husband Kaushik Ganguly, who first approached me for the film in 2009-10,” said Taslima.

Churni Ganguly debuted as a director with “Nirbashito,” a bilingual film in Bengali and English shot in Kolkata and Sweden. The cast comprises reputable Bengali and Swedish actors. Churni admitted there was apprehension for about a year and a half while she wrote the script, but her conviction saw her through.

“I don’t want to sell a controversy. The film is not a biopic. It is about tolerance, love and commitment to a belief. I am so glad Taslima Nasrin agreed to the film,” she said.

Taslima’s character is played by Churni Ganguly in the film — a character that does not have a name. “She is everywoman anyone can relate to. She is a woman punished for speaking her mind, for thinking differently,” said Churni.

The film is a satirical and fictionalised take on Taslima’s difficult trek through life. It is told through her “painful separation” from her pet cat when she was forced to leave Kolkata in November 2007 after a daylong mayhem on the city’s streets demanding her ouster.

“It is a story of a mother and her child separated over an unknown span of time. This is an allegory of living out the constant fear of homelessness, craving for motherland and mother tongue and the undying hope of returning home one day,” said Churni.

Taslima has been living in exile for the last 20 years trailed by threats and controversy. Several attempts to make films or television serials on her life were shelved as producers backtracked out of fear. Last year, the West Bengal state government had stopped telecast of a TV serial scripted by Taslima even before the first episode was aired.

The film could be released in Kolkata in 2015.   AGENCIES

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