Screenplay writer Bhavani Iyer tells Bhavi Gathani that she is overwhelmed by the love she has recieved for her laest film Raazi
On The Brief
Meghna wanted to make a film based on the book Calling Sehmat, so I was given the book to read and I had my own take on it. I knew how I wanted to approach the film, and both Meghna and I began our work almost immediately.
On The Story
The book tells the story of a young Kashmiri woman who goes to Pakistan and becomes an agent, who passes on sensitive information to help India get an edge over Pakistan in the 1971 war. Essentially, the storyline is what is within the book, but writing for cinema is very different, so there were a lot of alterations that were required.
On The Challenges
There were no challenges as such because I knew exactly what story I wanted to pick from the book. I knew that it was going to be the story of Sehmat. She would be the protagonist and we would see the story and the world through her eyes. But, I was also very clear that we were not making a jingoistic film where the protagonist is all white and pure. It needed to be a sensitively told story with no villains. It is just circumstance, what your country demands; it is just the two sides. Because each of them is doing what they are doing for their country, so neither is wrong.
On The Director
Meghna and I met for the first time exactly two years ago and we began our work on the film a month after that. It’s been a phenomenal experience because I think we kind of complete each other, whether it is our strengths, or weaknesses, or our ability to tell a story, or the tonality that you adopt. Most importantly, both of us work very quickly. She has immense clarity of vision, which is always a wonderful thing to have in a director, and I think we are very similar in the way we approach storytelling. She is extremely respectful and is a very collaborative person.
On The Actors
Right from the first cast reading, one could see that they all fit their roles perfectly. Alia is an extremely hardworking actress. She makes everything look easy but she is always prepared. It’s one thing to be talented, but Alia is very hard-working, she puts so much of herself into the character and she has an inherent intelligence that you cannot learn in any acting academy or film school.
Vicky Kaushal is another brilliant actor. He captured the nuances of his character so perfectly, and his was the toughest character to play. It was a very inward performance. Jaideep Ahlawat has also been mind-blowing. Every actor – Shishir (Sharma), Rajit (Kapur), Ashwath (Bhatt), Amruta (Khanvilkar) – all of them have been so wonderful.
On The Response
Most of my friends are not film people. I have this tradition of taking all my friends out to watch my films as they give me the most instinctive responses, devoid of the analysis and deconstruction that most of us film people do. I got the most wonderful response from them, and on that first day when I went to see the film with my friends, the movie got a standing ovation at the end. It was wonderful.
When I was standing in line in the ladies’ room, and people were talking about the film and discussing it, it felt really wonderful. From people who are part of the fraternity, from fellow writers, from directors, from actors, the amount of love that the film and I and Meghna have got over the last few days has been overwhelming.
On Future Projects
I am writing a show for Netflix, with Shah Rukh Khan’s company Red Chillies. It’s called The Bard of Blood and we start shooting in September. I am also writing Season 2 of Breathe for Amazon Prime Video India. I am writing a film for Nikkhil Advani and I am doing Meghna’s next, Sam, a biopic on Sam Manekshaw.