I considered turning away from films: Meghna Gulzar
The director talks about her latest film, Raazi, which has joined the 100-crore club
Overwhelmed by the thumping critical and popular acclaim accorded to her new film, Raazi, Meghna Gulzar says, “I don’t think any of us expected this magnitude of acceptance. And thank God for that. The surprise is so much sweeter!” In this interview, she looks back at Raazi, ruminates on women in cinema and speaks about her next project:
The commercial possibilities of films helmed by women directors and propelled by female actors is a perennial discussion. Now that your film Raazi has joined the 100-crore club besides being praised by a chorus of critics, what are your thoughts on the subject?
When green-lighting a project, I believe that the potential of the subject is given more focus than the gender of the director. I was blessed to have not one but two producers come on board wholeheartedly. As far as the dialogue on female-driven films is concerned, I think it is safe to say that the audience too, is now not focussing on the gender of the story’s protagonist, but on the story as a whole. And so is the trade and the distribution and exhibition chain of the film industry. Nothing could be better for us and our cinema.
Raazi has a controlled depiction of violence. Was that a personal choice?
Yes, just as it was in Talvar as well. I believe overstating is unnecessary. Violence alluded to, is far more impactful than violence amplified. This goes for any emotion for that matter – when you leave it open to interpretation, it travels more psychologically.
Was Alia Bhatt your first choice for the role of the spy?
Alia was my only choice for the part. I’m grateful that she agreed to be a part of my film, even before we had a script. I think the actors of today are so ahead in their craft, in their choice of roles. They are both fearless and constantly honing themselves, all at the same time.
You have written the dialogues of Raazi, which has a lot of Urdu. Did you feel like it'd be useful to run the lines by your dad (noted lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar)?
The first draft of the scripts of all my films, including Talvar, are always given to my father for his feedback. And if I’m stuck with a thought or an expression, I do reach out to him for help. However, I have been raised to speak Hindi and Hindustani at home. My father was very particular that my language and diction remain uncorrupted as I was growing up. That has helped in writing my films, in which, the language has always been pure – you will find very little Hinglish, or the language we speak today, in my films, right from my first film, Filhaal. And like my father, I too am trying to make sure that my son speaks correct Hindi and Hindustani.
Can you tell us about your state of mind in the eight years between Just Married (2007) and Talvar (2015) when you did not direct a film?
For the first two years after Just Married, I don’t think I had much motivation left. There were times of tremendous self-doubt. And even moments of wanting to just turn away from it all, completely. I would have conversations with myself – 'If my sensibility isn't working, should I try changing it, to tailor it for acceptance?’ The answer was always no… because I didn’t know how to be someone I’m not. In between, we decided that it was time to turn inwards and get on with life - beyond films. And that’s when I had my son and went into becoming a full-time mother. Not as a consolation, but as a conscious stepping away. Around 2013 is when the conversation around returning to films began – spurred by Vishal Sir (Bhardwaj). We went into production of Talvar in 2014 and it released in 2015. And I will always consider that my rebirth as a filmmaker.
Your next film is based on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s life. Will you be telling the story from a man’s perspective?
The film is untitled as of now. It isn’t an autobiographical depiction, so not necessarily from a man’s perspective. Actually, my films are rarely narrated from the perspective of the characters that are in the film. They mostly have a third-person perspective of the writer/s and the director. And so too will this one.