Letting Meghna Gulzar direct Raazi was the biggest blunder, rues Calling Sehmat author Harinder Sikka
Author of Calling Sehmat alleges that director Meghna Gulzar changed the title of the film and didn’t show him the director’s cut, despite contractual obligations. Also adds that lyricist Gulzar, Meghna’s father, forced publishers to delay the launch of his book so that “Meghna received all the attention”.
Author of the 2008 novel Calling Sehmat, based on a real-life story, is miffed with director Meghna Gulzar (who helmed the film adaptation, Raazi, 2018 starring Alia Bhatt in the lead role) and her father, lyricist Gulzar. He claims that it was him who fulfilled a promise made to the veteran lyricist that he’d let his daughter, Meghna, direct Raazi, and that was “the biggest blunder” he made.
Naturally, Sikka wasn’t happy with the final product — Raazi. According to him, Meghna “intentionally” made three blunders. “The first one was her pro-Pakistani approach. As per the book, when Sehmat kills Abdul, there’s a dialogue, ‘I’m sorry Abdul, but I love my country more’. Meghna removed this dialogue completely. She found it pro India?” he asks.
The second blunder, adds Sikka, was, “Sehmat came back to India to a royal red carpet welcome, saluted the tricolour while the military band played the National Anthem. Meghna removed the scene and instead brought her back in a depressed state, as if to show that a Kashmiri Muslim woman had done a mistake in fighting for her watan, India.”
Asked why didn’t he raise these points back in the day when the film released, he says he did try to speak up, “but after a few of my interviews came out, I received a death threat on social media”.
Sikka further alleges that the Gulzar family every effort to sideline him from the film. He reveals that originally, the film was supposed to be co-produced by actor Akshay Kumar.
“Mr Gulzar requested me to make Meghna the director of the film adaptation of my book. Given my respect for him, I made a promise. Prior to closing the deal with a production house, there was a meeting between me, Akshay and Meghna. I was supposed to co-produce the film with Akshay, but because I had gone into serious financial trouble with my first film Nanak Shah Fakir, I couldn’t do it,” Sikka tells us.
Owing to his promise, Sikka says he put up a “contractual obligation” to the production house that he’ll select the film’s director and the actor.
“Meghna would uncle me,’uncle this, uncle that’, and when she was signed for Raazi, she soon began changing colours. Soon after the shooting ended, following the plan, she sent me a nasty WhatsApp message, cutting off all relations,” he recounts.
The author goes on to add, “All along, I was under the impression that Talvar (2015) was directed by Meghna. Later on, I learnt from sources that she wasn’t the whole-sole person responsible for it. It was filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj who in reality was the anchor behind it and he did it as a ‘Guru Dakshina’ to Gulzar.”
Furthermore, Sikka claims that according to the contract, he was supposed to see the director’s cut, but Meghna went to Delhi and screened the final film to the Army brass. “She intentionally didn’t invite me neither informed, and knew my presence would halt the film’s release,” he adds.
Even the title of the film was changed from ‘Calling Sehmat to Raazi’, he tells us, without his knowledge or approval. “Their plan to checkmate me, the outsider, was in place. I was then removed from all titles and promotions related to Raazi on social media, YouTube, print and electronic media. It was now Raazi by Meghna Gulzar. I should have learnt that this was the trait of someone who would soon back-stab,” rues Sikka.
Almost simultaneously, Sikka further accuses Gulzar of calling Penguin publishers and pushed them to delay the launch of Calling Sehmat by two months “so that Meghna received all the attention”.
There was customary mention of his name just so as to fulfil contractual obligation throughout, he says, adding, “Mr Gulzar targeted me next by attempting to force my exit from Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) where he was speaking with his daughter on Calling Sehmat (Raazi). He didn’t want my presence to take the sheen off Meghna’s single handed success of the film. He pressured JLF to remove me, but this was where his plan went haywire. Sanjoy Roy, son of one of the most decorated Navy officers, wrote me a mail. He stuck to his invite to me and mentioned the name of Gulzar. I went to JLF, spoke about the real hero Sehmat and came back leaving a bruised Gulzar in wake.”
Later on, Sikka even wrote a mail to Gulzar with proofs, after which the veteran lyricist called him “but struggled to give explanation”, and the two never spoke again.
When we reached out to Meghna about the accusations, she wasn’t available for a comment.
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