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Who is Meghna Gulzar?

Indian Bollywood film director Meghna Gulzar attends the special screening of National Award winning director Hansal Mehta's Hindi film 'Aligarh' at 'Jio MAMI 17th.Mumbai Film Festival' in Mumbai on October 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO  

Within a couple of weeks of its release Meghna Gulzar’s Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi, reportedly made on a budget of ₹35 crore-₹40 crore, became a rare woman-centric film to join Hindi cinema’s much-coveted ₹100 crore club and the second highest grossing one, after Aanand L. Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns, with Kangana Ranaut in the lead. Starting off as the proverbial underdog, Raazi is running to packed houses. In the blink of an eye, the film’s surprise success catapulted Meghna into the meagrely populated league of superstar women directors with the likes of Farah Khan and Zoya Akhtar for company.

What is her work ethic?

Despite the film’s giant rupee strides and its significant underscoring of the feminine presence and perspective in an overly male-skewed universe, Meghna should truly be called director du jour for having managed to do it all on her own terms. Instead of following the diktats of the moolah-delivering mainstream pot-boilers, she has raced ahead by bending the rules, significantly if not entirely. And without making a big song and dance about the subversion.

Where did she train?

The 44-year-old daughter of poet-lyricist-author-film-maker Gulzar and actor Rakhee has creativity in her blood. However, despite being a celebrity child, Bosky (as she is called by her parents) did not quite seek out the limelight. In fact, she was deliberately kept away from the glamour, shoots and the parties. Life was all about school and books. She even travelled to St. Xaviers College in town by train, like any other Mumbai kid. A sociology graduate, Meghna did a short course in film-making at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. She made a couple of documentaries for Doordarshan, worked with veteran film-maker Saeed Mirza and with her own father on Maachis and Hu Tu Tu for which she also co-wrote the screenplay.

The initial forays into film-making were not quite as triumphant. Meghna’s debut film Filhaal was radical when it came to the subject — surrogate motherhood — but didn’t click. The same holds true for her take on marriage and compatibility in her sophomore outing, Just Married, and her short on female desire in the omnibus Dus Kahaniyan. It was three years ago that Meghna came into the reckoning with Talvar, a measured retelling of the infamous Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj double murder case and the accompanying miscarriage of justice. Perhaps, it is real life incidents that inspire the best in her as a film-maker. Her upcoming projects fall in the same zone — a biopic on Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw and another on acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal. Interestingly, Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, on which Raazi is based, came to her from two different producers for adaptation.

Why is Raazi important?

Raazi marks a major professional milepost for Meghna. The humanistic and sensitive approach to a contentious political issue, the understated emotions and evocative close-ups seem to be a legacy she has inherited from her father. There might be an overriding sense of implausibility and a simplistic view of issues, but what resonates is a clear-eyed honesty and sincerity of concerns than any deliberate manipulation of feelings.

In the times of chest-thumping nationalism, she steers clear of any overt jingoism or posturing in her Indo-Pak espionage thriller. There is love for the nation, but the kind that is quietly acknowledged than proclaimed with any shrillness. In fact, it is deeply problematic and painfully complex in how it seems to come in the way of individuals and their personal relationships. On the one hand is the love that can transcend borders, on the other is the idea of the nation that can breed betrayals and victimise innocent humans. In the middle of the turmoil are tragic lives, aware of their own treacheries, suffocated with regrets, unable to come to terms with the human losses they have themselves engendered and spending a lifetime on love’s residues when they could have had much more.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 8:11:30 PM |

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