Nusrat Jahan will kill you with kindness
Bold and beautiful, the young Parliamentarian calls her army of critics “lovers in disguise”
At 29, most of us struggle to find: a job we love, a partner who loves us back, a show to binge-watch and a network provider that won’t turn you homicidal. Earlier this year, when Mamata Banerjee gave Bengali actor Nusrat Jahan a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections, we met the other kind of 29-year-old. A successful eight-year-long career, a long-term boyfriend whom she married after winning a landslide victory in her constituency in Basirhat.
But on the first day of her new job as a member of Parliament, she was trending for all the wrong reasons. The nation wanted to know, “How could an MP wear western clothes to the Parliament?” Her response was dignified silence.
The bloodlust had hardly abated when she attracted fresh attention a few weeks later, this time for her bridal look during her wedding to businessman Nikhil Jain. “How can a Muslim wear sindoor?” demanded religious leaders.
Despite the regressive attempts to control her narrative, Jahan laughs it off. “We (Mimi Chakraborty and her) were just excited to be at this new office of ours, since we were used to going to dingy production offices to read scripts. So we took a selfie, and what followed was a disaster.”
As for her dedicated army of trolls, she calls them “lovers in disguise. They just want my attention.”
Like the leading lady she is, Jahan rarely veers off-script. “I don’t want women to feel victimised, and I don’t want men to get trolled either. The new generation has a mind of its own, we know better,”she offers diplomatically, before bursting into a Rajesh Khanna song, “Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna.”
As someone with no history in politics, Jahan’s Lok Sabha legitimacy is often debated. She knows being an MP isn’t as easy as changing five outfits in a day for film promotions. But she doesn’t disregard their doubts as firmly as she dismisses the mere mention of workplace sexism. “I don’t want to repeat what everybody says; I don’t stand for it,” she insists. “My chief minister (Banerjee) is an empowered woman. And India is changing slowly, young minds are joining the cause.” Glaring stats prove her claim. The 17th Lok Sabha registered the highest number of women MPs, and on average, they are six years younger than the men of the House.
Actors have won elections in the past, but few ever made the minimum attendance mark. Jahan has a laundry list of life changes to prove the detractors wrong. “I will do one film every year. During shooting schedules, I have decided to dedicate two hours every morning to address complaints from people in my constituency, and come up with solutions with the councillor,” says Jahan. It also helps to have an “understanding” husband, who has been by her side even during the long campaigning schedule. He has often provided chauffeur services to and from campaigning locations across the city.
Life hasn’t changed drastically with the new credential on her Wikipedia, Jahan’s just become a more competent multitasker. Earlier, she’d shoot in Basirhat and nearby rural areas for her films, where she developed a close relationship with the locals. The actor now visits these parts as their representative in the most powerful House in the land.
On the journey from public figure to public leader, the people “have been welcoming.” Jahan says. “They used to know me as ‘Nusrat Jahan’. Now they call me ‘Ghorer Meye’ (daughter of the house).”