EXCLUSIVE Raazi director Meghna Gulzar: In my house, Pakistanis are seen as ‘bichde hue log’

So, he shaved and came back and I was like, ‘This is Mir.’

Q. They are very well fleshed out and their presence is justified. In an interview, you said that it was the long break after Just Married. How much of a responsibility is on a director when he or she is making a film based on a true story? And when I saw the film, I realised it was saying so much more and that was overwhelming. There wasn’t a single scene showing the Indian National flag in a film that talks about patriotism. Meghna: There was no inclination. Today, when chest-thumping and sloganeering find their mentions as the synonyms to nationalism, the filmmaker brings Raazi, which is everything that patriotism shouldn’t be in the modern times. Vicky Kaushal and Alia Bhatt play husband and wife in Raazi. With Alia, again it was a completely instinctive decision as soon as I read the story, not even read, when I heard the story. It’s the 20th century! And we thought about Talvar. Gulzar saab had last year launched his book, “Two”, which is about the Partition. But what I have experienced is how warm his relations are with people across the border, how warmly he has been embraced when he has gone there, how warmly people, who come from there, meet him. You have made a film, which has humanised the other side, the one that’s called our enemy. Meghna: No. We have that also. So, as far as taking creative liberities are concerned, particularly in this one, all we have done is use tools at our disposal to make it more cinematic. Your female characters and even the actors have influences of your mother Rakhee’s work, be it Sushmita (in Filhaal), Esha Deol (in Just Married) or Alia in Raazi. Meghna: I am sure sub-consciously they did. So, it’s all instinct. Vicky’s casting happened once we finished writing and when we knew what we wanted to do with Iqbal. This is what I feel and yet at the same time, be objective and not manipulative. The challenge to keep it authentic really drives me and then particularly with Talvar, everything that I am, soft, sensitive, the film was everything that I wasn’t. Whether they are living people or deceased. But yes (that’s it). He was busy then. For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App
© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd It was just that. Alia Bhatt plays Sehmat in Raazi. I met him, he came with full beard. It’s about taking it forward from one medium to another, which is far more powerful. Your son is old enough.’ So, then the talk began that what should we make. We finished the film, and immediately after that it went into promotions. The cinema that my mother has done is very different from what I am making but her approach to her character is very similar to the tonalities of my characters. They were just by standers, not being able to do much. How did the shift to true-story genre happen? If you go with the basic faith that inherently your people still have their civility, their cultural richness and their tolerance intact, which I do believe very strongly, then you will not be tempted to go into sloganeering or jingoism, and it will reflect in the approach that you will take. Meghna: They are very proud and my father keeps saying, ‘Tasalli.’ That’s the word that keeps doing the rounds of the house. In the book, Sehmat is repeatedly mentioned as a Kashmiri, while you throughout the film maintained the reference as an Indian. Meghna: So, everything happened back to back. There is relief. Q. But when I saw our first locked edit, I was quite amazed at the fact that we all were telling the story of an extremely strong, powerful and selfless 20-year-old girl. I am his daughter. But if I am from America, I would say, ‘That Indian.’ So, logically for me, if a Pakistani is referring to someone in India, he will say ‘Indian’ and not ‘Kashmiri’. Don’t play up one more than the other. So, the thumb rule I had was that I wanted to see less exposed faces because then they can become characters and you don’t see them as actors. Were there times when you felt tempted to go down the cliche path of showing patriotism? Related News
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Q. It’s not actually the way the real people of our country feel. The footfalls in the theatres for Raazi are testimony to that. Once you were done making the film what were your thoughts and minimal expectations from it? How much can a director or a screenplay writer fictionalise the true account? Jaideep was the last person to be cast because Mir’s character is so dicey that I didn’t want to go the stereotypical road and take the most obvious choice. You need to maintain the sanctity of, if it’s a book, then the written material, and if it’s a true story, like Talvar was, then you need to respect the existence of the people, who you are talking about. Q. So, as Raazi, based on author Harinder Sikka’s Calling Sehmat, emerges victorious, indianexpress.com talks to Meghna to decode the film, her bent towards true-story genre and the evident influences of a writer father and an actor mother on her work. End result is the same but the way to get there is slightly different. The response to the trailer made me very nervous because the way I was looking at it was what it was going to do to the expectations from the film. We were at a dinner table conversation with Vishal sir where he said, ‘You have to make a film now. These are definitely conscious choices that you made to tell the story. Also read | Vicky Kaushal is the best find of Bollywood in recent times. Q. Meghna: The thing is there is reportage of that and then there is reportage of one person from one community helping out someone from another community in times of crisis. I have seen all of that. Last I heard, he was meant to travel plus his own book is releasing so, he has his hands full. I will stage it with my actors, my DOP would be standing there and he will tell me how we will start the scene and then we okay it. And that other side is India. Then you just pray that the audience gets what you are saying. When we finished developing the story, I showed it to him. I don’t consciously try to emulate his feelings or his emotions because his life experiences are his and mine are my own. Q. Seven years later, while the case was still in the court, director Meghna Gulzar made the convincible Talvar, which picked a side many did not agree with. Growing up, our household was never one where they were the enemy, They were humare bichde hue log. Q. So, he is aware of everything and the tonality of the film. It’s very important. For me, today to get messages from senior Army officials, saying, ‘You have presented us so well,’ when normally Hindi films get flak for some discrepancies or the other like the ribbon on the costume, and things like that… I had told my kids (her team) if there’s anything we can’t go wrong on, it’s how we are presenting the army, whether it’s ours or it’s Pakistan’s. Meghna: Tremendous! They are not just there for the sake of it. At the film’s success press conference, more than elated, you looked relieved, as if you weren’t expecting this kind of response from the audience. So, that was the approach we took to casting. You need to treat them with dignity and respect. Meghna: I don’t think I am influenced by her and I will tell you why. When your films weren’t working, did you feel the pressure of being the daughter of two prolific talents? The pressure was to take the stress, the worry away from my parents about my career, my films not working because it was far more difficult for them than it was for me. Here’s why
Q. I think that’s also what drives me to keep it authentic, do nightmarish research and thankfully be blessed with a team, who is as diligent and detail-oriented as I am. (smiles)
Also read | Alia Bhatt’s Raazi depicts why loving your own country doesn’t mean hating the other
Q. That’s so encouraging and gratifying. I am raised by him and my mother so, you do imbibe things, which are a part of your upbringing. 10 days of promotion and it went into the release. It was not pressure because I am their daughter and that’s because my cinema is very different from my father’s and that became clear with my first film. Meghna: None of us expected this. 2018-05-21T17:14:03+05:30″>
Updated: May 21, 2018 5:14:03 pm

Raazi director Meghna Gulzar decodes the film in this exclusive interview. Apart from that, if you have read the book, Vicky’s character departs from the book. Meghna: I don’t know if he has seen the film. Do you feel his feelings reflect in the way you approached Raazi? Meghna: Right from the script level, all the characters have a purpose in the story. We finished shooting and went into edit, after that the post-production started. We were one month away from the shoot and I thought that we should take off the moustache also and if it didn’t look good, we had a month to grow it back. I know the numbers are there and figures are going out, people are not getting tickets… But there’s a little bit of a distance between my innermost consciousness and whatever is happening outside, which is a good way to be. Like in the case of Talvar, it’s about which side gets more amplified. Is staying true to the story in the most intricate manner also a pressure, an interference to the process of filmmaking? So, the casting completely comes from the the way the characters are fleshed out. Logically, if in my country, I have to refer to somebody then I will say that Punjabi or Maharashtrian or Gujarati or Kashmir. With the book, if there were departures, they were purely to take the written format forward, to alleviate it. There was never any temptation because this majority opinion of wearing nationalism on your sleeves is only on social media. So, for me, the success of my films today, my biggest reward is that they are not worried. Talk to me about casting of Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal) and Mir (Jaideep Ahlawat). Because it is a true story, you are actually documenting history and that will go forward and become the narrative that people are going to believe because cinema is so powerful. We were stubborn enough to shoot in Kashmir. So, that contrast and the insecurity, ‘Will I be able to do it?,’ every day through the making of that film there was a doubt, ‘Whether I will be able to deliver?’ that drives me to work harder and then that works for the film. Otherwise, why are you making the film? Also, what sets this genre apart from your previous films? My first assistant showed me his picture from the film, Commando 2, which was typical of everything that I didn’t want. It has more to do with the world of the stories that my characters are in. So, that time to reflect that what have we done and what is it going to do was very little. You can write a thesis on the book. Meghna: I don’t even call her Indian in the film. Meghna: The first scene of the film does show the Indian National flag, which is a part of the Indian Army flag. My sensibilities are the same but my cinema is different. They got it and how! To tell you the truth, the enormity of it hasn’t hit me fully. We needed a sensitive man, someone, whom this girl (Sehmat) will actually fall in love with enough to have his child. Q. It’s only her father-in-law, who addresses her like that and that is because he is a Pakistani and hence he is referring to a person from the other side of the border. What was his reaction? Q. How did they react to Raazi? It’s not like I would sit in my office and storyboard and say, ‘We will go close here, and wide (angle) there.’ I get on the set, take in my surroundings and break down the scene. When we finished our screenplay draft, I shared it with him. Then the process of taking off his facial hair in stages began, to see what would Mir be. It was at the spur of the moment. How do you look at it? The connect is over there. Q. For someone to be at 27-28, at the peak of her career, and not have qualms in playing Rishi Kapoor’s mother (in 1976 film Kabhie Kabhie), somewhere seeps down into me, where I don’t have qualms in saying that two women can decide that one of them wants to carry the other’s child (Filhaal). But he said that I should meet Jaideep. Q Has Harinder Sikka watched the film? But I have not done anything to camouflage the fact that she is Kashmiri. And Rakhee, for me, was among those rare female actors of the 1970-80s, who even approached a commercial, mass entertainer with an evident dose of subtlety and underplay. That month between the trailer and film’s release was fully sleepless. And they didn’t let me down. Meghna: Your intent needs to be correct. In fact, we have shown that in ample amount. Meghna: There’s so much clarity at the script level that when you are on set, it’s just about execution and that I do on instinct completely. So, you make it as cinematic as possible. Kashmiri girl, 20, spy, vulnerable, sacrifice… Her face just popped in my head. But then how do you look at the real incidents of hate crime that have of course increased over the last few years? Was this a conscious departure from the book?