The trailer of Raazi, Meghna Gulzar’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to Talvar is so stunningly persuasive that my first though was, what took you so long? This true-life story of a valorous Indian Muslim girl who risked her life by marrying a Pakistani and moving to the neighbouring country to spy for our country, is a story that was waiting to be told. Wonder why it took so long though! Perhaps a spineless apolitical generation of Indian filmmakers were afraid to tell a story that raises questions of nationality and patriotic pride.
And then there is Meghna Gulzar. What took her so long to blossom as a filmmaker? After two false starts Filhaal and Just Married, she erupted into a newly-forged self-expression with Talvar. Now in Raazi which opens in May, Megha’s telling of the story of Sehmat, the unsung hero who crossed the border in 1971, seems so structurally apt and urgent, it’s like a perfectly ripened fruit waiting to be plucked. Perhaps this particular political peach was waiting to be plucked only when Meghna collaborated with Alia. The trailer proves she is to the Burqa born. She takes to the role as she does every time. Seeing the trailer, it wouldn’t be wrong to say, Alia is to Meghna Gulzar what Tabu was to Meghna’s father in Maachis and Hu-tu-tu.
Alia seems born to play Sehmat. And Vicky Kaushal as her Pakistani husband is to Alia what Sanjeev Kumar was to Suchitra Sen in Gulzar’s Aandhi. It’s not easy to make an impact where the female hero has an author-backed role. And when the female hero is Alia, boy, you are in for trouble. She dazzles in the trailer, as she moves with feline agility from innocent Indian girl, to devious bride, plotting training to get information for the country. My heart leapt to my mouth as Alia’s Sehmat crossed the border, this time in a very geo-political sense. The trailer shows the director recreating the 1971 period without straining for effect. This is a highly inflammable subject, filled with grandiloquent drama and flamboyant fury. But Meghna Gulzar takes the gentle route. The structuring is elegant and the emotions seem reined-in. And yes, this is that moment when we can safely say Alia Bhatt is destined to join the all-time greats where Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Vyjanthimala, Nutan, Shabana Azmi, Sridevi and Tabu are waiting.
Welcome home, Alia. What was it like spending time with Sehmat across the border? We will soon know.
If you haven’t watched the trailer yet, here it is!