Nikaah (1982) – A Sympathetic Divorce Movie About Choices

This is such a satisfying movie. It has the typical sympathetic social consciousness B. R. Chopra’s as well a good script and characters in a good drama with good music.


Nilofar comes to the offices of her former college friend Haider. The two begin talking and Nilofar tells about her marriage to Wasim and how she is now divorced. Haider and Nilofar start to spend time with one another, they marry, but everything changes when Wasim comes back into the picture, asking for forgiveness.


This movie is all about women, their trials and her choices inside the social Patriarchy structures that are around her. It is made clear from the first as we see watercolour paintings of women from myth, history and real trials they go through. Chopra isn’t shy about that this is a woman’s picture above all, even if she is in the survivor in this case, but it was the 80s so I can let it slide.

This is also a what is called a ‘Muslim Social’, a genre of film that emerged in India, which has all the characters be Muslims and is wholly concentrated on their societal problems, which are also, in essence, universal problems, but given the Muslim setting. Personally, as much as the categorizing a whole genre of film with Muslim protagonists feels to me a bit sour, considering it is then othering the Muslims within India in a certain group with films made for them and the Arabic countries overseas, but not anywhere else – thus limiting their reach abroad – rather than accepting that they are a part of Indian cinema. And mind you, there is no ‘Christian Social’ or ‘Buddhist Social’ or ‘Sikh Social’ genre that is named anywhere. I think it should be easy to say that whatever your religion or faith one grows up in or chooses, they are part of the country they are born in and which they themselves feels they belong to.

Back to the movie. For one thing, it handles the love triangle expertly. There isn’t a clear bad guy or good guy, both have their flaws and they are clearly shown. Haider, played by Raj Babbar is shy, poetic and a bit of a selfish flirt at university when he makes a bet with his friends that he can touch Nilofar. He does and she scolds him for it, he regrets it and brings her a red rose and many lines of beautiful Urdu poetry as an apology. They didn’t have a relationship beyond it at the time and he becomes a friend for Nilofar and the two finally marry.

Deepak Parashar as Wasim starts out as a perfect husband, if not a completely blind what his workaholic tendencies do to his wife, being alone on their Honeymoon, or that if he has stress at work considering the big project he is doing, then he blows it all on his wife with arguments about little things. He doesn’t take criticism about himself very well and when a lot of guests come for their wedding’s first-anniversary party and he doesnät arrive no one is having a fun time. Nilofar is so sad she retires to her room to cry and when the guests leave thanks to the insults and complaints of a blue saried woman who is very irritating, then he takes it as an insult to him and blames it all on Nilofar for not taking care of their guests. She stands up to him and he, in return, divorces her with the three words that husband from wife: “Talaq! Talaq! Talaq!” 

Meanwhile, Nilofar played by Salma Agha is one of the most enjoyable protagonists, because she is so emancipated. Yes, she marries her cousin and someone she has been promised by her parents in an arranged marriage, but she accepts it and is happy to have it this way. There is no scene of her being against the marriage or anything.

She is happy at first, but then the little arguments and the loneliness of being inside a large house alone makes her sadder and sadder. She endures the stigma of being a divorcee and that fact makes her not being allowed back home, she is not able to get work and she can only earn societies approval by marrying again. But this time it is completely for her, with a man she loves and who treats her like the treasure of a woman she is, but even then Haider has the inner misogyny that is drilled on to him by society, even if he is a good guy.

It should be said that Salma makes this role so powerful. She makes Nilofar someone who is more than her own stunning beauty, who is powerful in her own beliefs and wishes in a marriage and is not afraid to talk her mind when it comes to it. She expresses herself by poetry and writing, which earns her money, and is smarter than the men give her credit for.

In the end, there is a confrontation, when Nilofar has her great speech it is so satisfying to listen as she schools the two men in treating her like property once she is in the role of ‘wife’ thus not a person in her own right anymore. Although as the men talk it does get a little preachy, but the end is very satisfying. Nilofar is the one who gets to choose, who has the only power to choose, she is a woman, she is the lead and this is her story.

Thank you for reading! 

One thought on “Nikaah (1982) – A Sympathetic Divorce Movie About Choices

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s