Film-maker Meghna Gulzar speaks to Manju Ramanan on her upcoming film Raazi that is based on Harinder Sikka’s novel ‘Calling Sehmat’ based on an Indian spy married to a Pakistani military officer.
Did you meet people like your character Raazi when you researched the story?
It is a true story and that is said in the trailer too. The book has been my reference though. It is a film that is much beyond the political tensions between India and Pakistan. Its semantics and sentiments are based on the era of 1971. Yes, the research explored many zones and the real Raazi’s anonymity is very important to her.
What simmered between your last film Talvar and this film?
The hunger is to do something unique. I don’t like to repeat myself. My last film Talvar was based on the murder of a young girl and this film is derived from the book ‘Calling Sehmat’ by Harinder Sikka. The aim of a film maker is to tell different stories.
How did you choose your main star cast?
The role was written for Alia Bhatt as she reflects vulnerability and strength in equal measure. Similarly, Vicky Kaushal plays a young, robust Pakistani soldier who is extremely sensitive, charming and empathetic as well. In no way have I said as an Indian film –maker that my Pakistani character is a brute. I truly believe that uniforms don’t define people. Vicky plays a very sensitive man.
How do you see the film marry story and poetic sensibility?
What I like about the music and the songs is that they are completely ingrained in the film. Inherently they don’t land into song and dance but the songs take the narrative forward. They are woven into the script and not interpolated. There is reality in the songs. For instance, Aye Watan is a situational song. Alia is singing the song to children in an army school. While she is singing it for India – her land, the Pakistani children who repeat after her, sing the same song for Pakistan. Going ahead in the song is a solo ‘Lab Pe aati Hai’ – that is a prayer sung in schools and is written by the Pakistani scholar Dr Allama Iqbal. The beautiful part is, Dr Iqbal also wrote the well-known Saare Jahaan se Accha Hindustan Hamara. There are reasons why these songs are there in the film. They are there because the songs connect people.
Produced by Vineet Jain, Karan Johar, Hiroo Johar and Apoorva Mehta and co-produced by Priti Shahani, the film releases on May 10, 2018.