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The trailer of Imtiaz Ali’s new movie Laila Majnu as released recently. Why does the Laila Majnu story continue to be so appealing to us in India?
Some stories live forever because they continue to evoke a response in people. That’s what Laila Majnu is according to director Imtiaz Ali. The trailer of his upcoming movie, of the same name, takes us on a beautiful ride of madness, separation and forbidden love. A new perspective on this extraordinary, timeless classic is what he aims to offer. But the question over here is, is the tale of Laila Majnu still relevant?
‘Laila-Majnu’, two names without an ‘and’ in between were considered two bodies with one soul. They are among the greatest examples of undying love. Majnu the poet, who used to write for his muse Laila, was considered of low birth and mentally ill by the society. The separation, grief and wait for their love which was pure but caged and separated due to boundaries made by society cost them their lives. They died because no one accepted their divine and pure love.
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It’s a fact that hundreds of Lailas and Majnus are there in India even now, struggling to keep their love alive against all the societal boundaries. After all, just three days ago, a young woman was shot dead in Rohtak, allegedly by her own relatives, because she dared to love a man not to their liking.
No matter how Westernised our country has outwardly become, we can’t neglect the fact that societal taboos, the caste system and religious differences are still prevalent. Although laws try to protect us, still, love that mostly doesn’t fit into these societal norms dies in the end.
According to legal experts, more than 1000 honour killing incidents happen every year in India. People are slaughtered just because they loved someone who doesn’t belong to their caste or religion. We are told that love is the greatest force of all, and that it is something that makes you a better person; then why are people killed just because they loved someone?
The Human Rights Watch defines ‘honour killing’ as the acts of violence, usually murder committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonour upon the family. The wrath of honour killing is something that scars women and makes them cautious before they fall in love. Just like Laila Majnu, even today, young people are forbidden to love beyond the comfort of their community. If they do, lovers are separated in the name of the clan’s pride. They are killed because of their culture and hence forced to hide their love.
The differences created by us continue to exist in the form of status, caste and religion. Imtiaz Ali in his different approach has tried showing Laila as a ‘flirt’, Majnu as a ‘ladkibaaz‘ (girl crazy) and their love for each other as ‘paagalpan’(madness). One more thing that the trailer tries to highlight is the culture of dating and the art of hiding it.
The culture of dating in India is practically non-existent, it’s apparently a modern practice beyond our ‘traditions’. Dating is a taboo, it’s a topic that no one wants to talk about. People are forced to hide their relationships just because society doesn’t accept it. Many brave hearts, bold enough to accept their love in front of everyone are either killed or succumb to the very famous norms of ‘sharm, lihaj, haya‘ and they are termed as ‘behaya‘ (shameless).
It is saddening how on the one hand young lovers are taunted on the streets for expressing their love and on the other hand, people are so comfortable about street harassment, peeing or littering on the same streets.
The question to ask is, even today, is the fate of Laila-Majnu the result of loving someone?
Maybe now it’s time to change the obvious answer to this question to a ‘NO’. We need to change our people’s mentality, destroy boundaries and encourage acceptance. Maybe the 21st century is the time for a new ending to the Laila Majnu story.
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