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A House Named Shahana (2023)

-Written by Michelle Vorob.


2024 INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL OF LOS ANGELES REVIEW!


A House Named Shahana tells the story of Dipa (Aanon Siddiqua), a young divorcee living in her rural hometown in 1990s Bangladesh. Having “brought shame” on her family at 17, Dipa is then sent away to England a few years later, via arranged marriage to an older widower. He quickly turns abusive and Dipa leaves, with the help of a friend, Sharmin (Rubaiat Sharmin Jhara), returning again to her hometown. 


This is where A House Named Shahana joins Dipa’s story, things from the past being revealed through flashbacks. Dipa goes to sign her divorce papers, being met with overt hostility and disgust by the city employees. One official mocks her as if she isn't standing there. The second purposely shoves her with his shoulder as he leaves the room. Her only protection is that she has social standing, nevertheless, these strangers feel completely within their rights to casually bully her.


A House Named Shahana, mind you, takes place in the real world, in modern times. This isn't Game of Thrones or The Handmaid's Tale. What people need to know is that violence against women is still a global human rights crisis and that some places in the world still hold to archaic, biblical standards of “womanhood,” including women being seen as “less than,” even if they're “perfect.” This is palpably different from the general sexism and misogyny present in the U.S. and other countries. I won't get into Global Patriarchy, nor will I talk about regional or cultural issues here in the U.S., because it still all stems from the same biblical codes. 


Dipa has the good fortune and fortitude to live with some autonomy, but does live with her parents. She has become a doctor and is waiting to find out if she's going to get a government job, which will pay better. Meanwhile, her actions [of existing as a regular person] continue to “dishonor” her family, so her Uncle (Amirul Haque Chowdhury), who is head of the family, has arranged an exorcism of Dipa's house.


Dipa arrives home and there's a quiet little girl she's never seen before, Pori (Mugdhota Morshed Wriddhi). It turns out Pori is there as part of the exorcism. The Holy Man uses Pori as a conduit to get rid of bad energy. Everyone else is going along with it, but Dipa is the voice of reason. As the ceremony starts, Pori starts to foam at the mouth. Dipa realizes that Pori has been drugged. Dipa stops the ceremony and tells The Holy Man to leave. She is keeping Pori there and will bring her home personally. She doesn't care if there are consequences. She wants to help this little girl.


Dipa and Pori have a bond; Pori wants to stay with Dipa. Despite the fact that Dipa tells Pori she needs to go home, the idea that Pori is still in danger, coupled with the shared bond, moves Dipa to make a life-changing decision for them both. Dipa tells her family she is going to adopt Pori, significantly changing Pori's life for the better. She has obtained the government job and is going to move away [with Pori]. Despite her family's insistence that her actions are once again bringing shame on the family, Dipa has made it clear that she will continue to live on her own terms. 


A House Named Shahana is inspired by real events. Directed and co-written by Leesa Gazi, along with Siddiqua, cast and crew have done a masterful job with this movie, bringing women's voices to the forefront in a stifling environment, showing a very relatable life experience, although it may differ from your own. 


Directed by Leesa Gazi.


Written by Leesa Gazi and Aanon Siddiqua. 


Starring Aanon Siddiqua, Lutfur Rahman George, Iresh Zaker, Kazi Ruma, Kamrunnahar Munni, Mugdhota Morshed Wriddhi, Amirul Haque Chowdhury, Naila Azad, Arif Islam.


8/10 = WORTH RENTING OR BUYING


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