Chulpan Khamatova, "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes" star
Last week, new Russia Television and Radio’s drama, "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes", internationally premiered at the Key Buyers Event – Russia’s first virtual content market.
"Zuleikha" became highly successful in Russia, it was seen by millions of people on TV and on the internet. However, it provoked intense emotional debates and controversial responses among viewers and critics. A social media firestorm coming from both Soviet-era nostalgics and Muslims.
The star of the series, one of the most famous Russian actresses, Chulpan Khamatova, shared her own thoughts on this situation. “For me, it’s been really strange how fast the perception of this problem, of this trauma, over the past 15 years has shifted to the opposite side. I started 17 years ago in a film about the Stalin-era and the reaction was completely different. There was no question, then, that this was a very bad time for my country. But now the reaction was very different. A lot of people thought that we were depicting history from just one side…they thought Stalin was a hero. That he led our country toward becoming more industrialized. And all those victims were okay because the country needed a great leader. I think that’s a really very dangerous view. It means that we can’t remember all the lessons of our history. We really need to do something to explain to people how it was; why it was. There was no reason to deport millions of people and break up their lives for this very strange type of economic success.”
The series based on a bestselling multi-award-winning novel of the same name tells the story of Zuleikha, a quiet and obedient Muslim wife, who is living with her abusive husband and despotic mother-in-law in a remote Tatar village in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. When her husband is murdered by soldiers for hiding grain, she is arrested and sent to Siberia. A dreadful trip to a place of exile, thousands of kilometers, and a fierce winter kill many. In this severe wilderness, she begins to build a new life for herself and discovers an inner strength given by great love and endearment.
Chulpan confessed that she has a pretty strong personal connection to her heroine, Zuleikha. She is herself Tartar by ethnicity and there were exiles among her ancestors, too. "When I started preparing for the role, I was reading these arguments a lot, these rude and unfair accusations. But for me, everything in the story made sense – one of my aunts, her name was also Zuleikha, was a dispossessed kulak as well. I traced her, her family, and their lives back".
Russia Television and Radio’s "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes" is a lead offering from Sovtelexport. The film won’t leave anybody indifferent. It conveys a powerful humanistic message about a woman’s role in the modern world, about her dignity, and her struggle for happiness.