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I see Pakistanis as no different from us, says Meghna Gulzar

The Raazi (2018) filmmaker explains why she showed Pakistanis as normal people in last year's hit starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal.

Alia Bhatt, Soni Razdan and Vicky Kaushal in Raazi

Keyur Seta

Mainstream Hindi cinema is known for going overboard in portraying Pakistani characters in a negative way, especially if the film happens to be a spy drama. Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi (2018) was an exception as it showed Pakistani characters, including military officers, as normal human beings.

The film saw Vicky Kaushal, Shishir Sharma and a few others play members of a Pakistani army family. Yet they behaved like regular people. Meghna explained why she decided to showcasing the characters like regular people during a chat at the MAMI Movie Mela in Mumbai on Sunday.

She said, “I will tell you honestly that wasn’t a conscious execution. I think my subconscious [mind] played a large part in it. I have grown up with a father [legendary lyricist, poet, writer and filmmaker Gulzar] who was born in pre-Partition Pakistan. So, the way we refer to Pakistan in our household is very different.” 

Meghna Gulzar (File Picture)

Adding her personal experience, Meghna said, “I have seen contingents of writers and students coming from Pakistan to visit my father. I have heard of my father’s experiences when he has visited Pakistan. My only understanding of this entire exchange and my experience growing up has been that we are the same. It’s the politics that creates the divide between us, but as people there is no divide.”

Meghna went into the details of Kaushal’s character Iqbal Syed and why she showed him the way she did. “That is what subconsciously made me decide, probably, what Iqbal would look like, what his personality would be like, that he would listen to jazz music and that he wasn’t such a brute that he would force himself on his wife, because I saw Pakistanis in my film as us,” she said. 

Raazi, based on Harinder Sikka's spy thriller novel Calling Sehmat, saw Alia Bhatt play a young Kashmiri woman, Sehmat, who gets married to Iqbal so that she can pass on important information about the ‘enemy’ to India. The film received critical acclaim as well as box-office success.

Vicky Kaushal and Alia Bhatt in a scene from Raazi (2018)

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MAMI Mumbai Film Festival