Ismat Chughtai 21 August — 24 October was an Indian Urdu language novelist, short story writer, and filmmaker. Beginning in the s, she wrote extensively on themes including female sexuality and femininity , middle-class gentility, and class conflict , often from a Marxist perspective. With a style characterised by literary realism , Chughtai established herself as a significant voice in the Urdu literature of the twentieth century, and in was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. Chughtai described the influence of her brothers as an important factor which influenced her personality in her formative years. She thought of her second-eldest brother, Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, a novelist, as a mentor.
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Ismat Chughtai 21 August — 24 October was an Indian Urdu language novelist, short story writer, and filmmaker. Beginning in the s, she wrote extensively on themes including female sexuality and femininity , middle-class gentility, and class conflict , often from a Marxist perspective. With a style characterised by literary realism , Chughtai established herself as a significant voice in the Urdu literature of the twentieth century, and in was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
Chughtai described the influence of her brothers as an important factor which influenced her personality in her formative years. She thought of her second-eldest brother, Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, a novelist, as a mentor. The family eventually settled in Agra, after Chughtai's father retired from the Indian Civil Services. Upon publication, readers mistook it as a play by Chughtai's brother Azeem Beg, written using a pseudonym. Some of her early works included Bachpan Childhood , an autobiographical piece, Kafir Infidel , her first short-story, and Dheet Stubborn , her only soliloquy , among others.
Chughtai's continued association with the Progressive Writers' Movement had significant bearings on her writing style; she was particularly intrigued by Angaray , a compilation of short-stories written in Urdu by members of the group including Jahan, Sajjad Zaheer , Sahibzada Mahmuduzaffar and Ahmed Ali.
Chughtai's first novella Ziddi , which she had written on her early twenties was first published in The book chronicles the love affair between a woman, who works as domestic help in an affluent household and her employer's son. Chughtai later discussed the similarity in themes and style of the novel with the works of the romantic novelist Hijab Imtiaz Ali, citing her as another early influence. Commentators have praised the novella, both for its "compelling prose"  and for providing "[glimpses] into a world where women try to break out of the shackles created by other women, rather than men".
After completing her Bachelor's of Education degree, Chughtai successfully applied for the post of headmistress of an Aligarh-based Girls school. There, she met and developed a close friendship with Shaheed Latif , who was pursuing a master's degree at the Aligarh Muslim University at the time.
She found success with such short-stories as Gainda and Khidmatgaar and the play Intikhab , all of which were published during the period. Khwaja Ahmad Abbas was the legal witness to the ceremony. Chughtai garnered widespread attention for her short-story Lihaaf The Quilt , which appeared in a issue of Adab-i-Latif , a Lahore -based literary journal.
The trial, which took place in , itself drew much media and public attention and brought notoriety to the duo. Chughtai fared better in the public eye, having garnered support from such fellow members of the Progressive Writers' Movement as Majnun Gorakhpuri and Krishan Chander.
Regardless, she detested the media coverage of the whole incident, which in her view weighted heavily upon her subsequent work; "[ Lihaaf ] brought me so much notoriety that I got sick of life. It became the proverbial stick to beat me with and whatever I wrote afterwards got crushed under its weight. Chughtai, however, is known to have made her peace with the whole fiasco, having met the woman who had inspired Begum Jan a few years after the publication of Lihaaf.
The woman told Chughtai that she had since divorced her husband, remarried and was raising a child with her second husband. Chughtai's biographers recall the meeting between the two women in Ismat: Her life, Her times : "[Chughtai] felt greatly rewarded when the begum told [her that Lihaaf ] had changed her life and it is because of her story now she was blessed with a child".
She recalled the difficult circumstances facing her during her work on the novel, in a interview with Mahfil: Journal of South Asian Literature : "[It was] during the war that I wrote my novel Terhi Lakeer , a big, thick novel.
I was sick then, pregnant with my daughter. But I was always writing that novel". What should a writer write about anyway"? In the years following their marriage, Latif also introduced Chughtai to the Hindi film industry.
Starring Kamini Kaushal , Pran , and Dev Anand in his first major film role, Ziddi became one of the biggest commercial successes of It was based on the eponymous short story; Chughtai had rewritten the narrative in form of a screenplay for the production.
Having again written the screenplay based on one of her short stories, Chughtai co-directed the film with Latif. Chughtai's association with film solidified when she and Latif co-founded the production company Filmina. Starring Nutan and Talat Mahmood in lead roles, it told the story of a child actor , who was abused and exploited over the course of her career. The film was well received by audiences and the success translated directly into a rise in Chughtai's popularity, as noted by writer and critic Shams Kanwal.
Chughtai continued writing short-stories during the time despite her commitment to film projects. Her fourth collection of short-stories Chui Mui Touch-me-not was released in to an enthusiastic response. Chui Mui was adapted for stage by Naseeruddin Shah as a part of a commemorative series Ismat Apa Kay Naam , with his daughter Heeba Shah playing the central character in the production.
Beginning in the s, Chughtai wrote a total of eight novels, the first of which was Masooma The Innocent Girl , published in Set in the Bombay of s, the novel delves into the themes of sexual exploitation and social and economic injustice. In the early s, Chughtai wrote two novels, Ajeeb Aadmi A Very Strange Man and Jangli Kabootar Wild Pigeons that made use of her knowledge of the Hindi film industry , which she had been a part of for the last couple of decades.
Ajeeb Aadmi similarly narrates the life of Dharam Dev, a popular leading man in Bollywood and the impact that his extra-marital affair with Zareen Jamal, a fellow actress has on the lives of the people involved.
The novel was said to have been based on the affair between frequent co-stars Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman ; Dutt was married to playback singer Geeta Dutt and the couple had three children at the time. The novel, which was released in the early s, was praised for its bold nature and candour. Chughtai was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the late s, which limited her work thereafter. They bury you beneath a pile of mud. One would suffocate [ Following the translation of numerous of her works into English, a renewed interest in the Urdu literature of the twentieth century, and subsequent critical reappraisals, Chughtai's status as a writer rose.
With more of her work being made available for reading to a wider audience over the years, criticism centered around the limited scope of Chughtai's writing has also subsided. In a retrospective piece, Naqvi also countered the perceived scope of Chughtai's writings, saying that her work was "neither confined to nor exhausted" by the themes central to Lihaaf : "she had much, much more to offer".
Naqvi highlighted how despite having established herself as a significant voice in Urdu literature by this time, Chughtai was still remained keen on probing new themes and expand the scope of her work.
Tedhi Lakeer , which has come to be regarded as Chughtai's magnum opus is now considered to be one of the most significant works of Urdu literature by commentators and various media outlets. He likened the novel's framework to that of a bildungsroman and praised its examination of the nationalist and feminist issues of the period. In her own words, Chughtai came from a family of " Hindus , Muslims and Christians who all live peacefully".
Chughtai's short stories reflected the cultural legacy of the region in which she lived. This was well demonstrated in her story "Sacred Duty", where she dealt with social pressures in India, alluding to specific national, religious and cultural traditions. In Chughtai's formative years, Nazar Sajjad Hyder had established herself an independent feminist voice, and the short stories of two very different women, Hijab Imtiaz Ali and Rashid Jehan, were also a significant early influence.
Many of her writings, including Angarey and Lihaaf , were banned in South Asia because their reformist and feminist content offended conservatives for example, her view that the Niqab , the veil worn by women in Muslim societies, should be discouraged for Muslim women because it is oppressive and feudal .
Many of her books have been banned at various times. On August 21, , Google celebrated her th birthday with a Google Doodle. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Ismat Chughtai. When I started writing, there was a trend -- writing romantic things or writing like a Progressive. When I started to write, people were very shocked because I wrote very frankly [ We stood face to face during a dinner. I felt the ground under my feet receding. She cruised through the crowd, leaped at me and took me in her arms [ She invited me to a fabulous dinner.
I felt fully rewarded when I saw her flower-like boy. I felt he was mine as well. A part of my mind, a living product of my brain. An offspring of my pen. Main article: List of works by Ismat Chughtai.
Routledge Press. Archived from the original on 23 October Retrieved 26 April Archived from the original on 6 December Retrieved 24 April Archived from the original on 12 October Archived from the original on 16 October Retrieved 25 April University of Texas, Austin. Archived PDF from the original on 4 December Retrieved 11 January Mahfil Vol.
Archived from the original on 1 August Retrieved 16 September Annual of Urdu Studies Vol. University of Wisconsin. Archived PDF from the original on 26 April University of Calcutta.
Archived from the original PDF on 14 May Retrieved 13 May — via Shodhganga. Archived from the original on 26 April Kindle Magazine. Archived from the original on 4 September Retrieved 17 September The Telegraph.
Celebrating Ismat Chughtai, the Urdu writer who dared to talk about feminine sexuality
Stand clear! The woman is arriving. Up to , the legal definition of persons did not include women. As did Asma Jahangir. And before her Ismat Chughtai. Chughtai, who passed away in her bed quietly in Bombay 28 years ago, is universally regarded as one of the four pillars of modern Urdu fiction, the other three being her contemporaries Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi.
Jump to navigation. Today, on August 21, Google is celebrating the th birth anniversary of the epitome of women empowerment, the Grand Doyenne of Urdu fiction and a writer who fought for Freedom of Speech, Ismat Chughtai. She was many things to many people. Considered to be one of the four pillars of modern Urdu short story, Chugtai remained an important literary voice almost till her last days. Chughtai's work fit into no pre-conceived narrative and she published short stories, novels, sketches, plays, reportage and radio plays. Her bold protagonists stood out from the ordinary, her outspoken approach jolted regressive minds and her rebellious themes raised many eyebrows. She was an iconoclast, an educationist, and an icon of women's empowerment.
List of works by Ismat Chughtai