Eight years after Just Married, Meghna Gulzar returns to the helm with the complex murder mystery, Talvar, based on the Aarushi case. This is a far cry from Meghna’s usual soft fare, and we’re so curious about how it came to be, that we think it’s best to go straight to the source and ask.
So we meet Meghna, daughter of poet-lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar and actress Rakhee, at her office in a charming bungalow: Boskyaana. Bosky is Meghna’s nickname. The house is adorned with paintings, sculptures and portraits, which Gulzar saab willingly describes to us, while disarmingly requesting the photographer to take nice pictures of his ‘bitsy’ (darling daughter).
Trial by fire
Like many working women, Meghna took time off to raise her son, Samay. And just when she began to feel the need to vent her creative urges again, filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj “threw” the idea of a film based on the 2008 Noida double murder case at her.
“I went straight into research. Vishalji completed the screenplay and then I started directing the film,” says Meghna.
Truthfully, the 41-year-old has never been a one-film-a-year director. She began in 2002 with Filhaal, and her next film, Just Married, released in 2007. Then she directed a segment of Dus Kahaniyaan in the same year, did a couple of documentaries, and has now premiered her third feature film, Talvar, at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is set for an India release on October 2.
“I started research around July-August 2012, while the trial was going on, and we started shooting last June, after the judgement,” says Meghna. “The script is based on material available in the public domain and the story is told from three points of view. This has to be the most fragile film I have made or will make.”
Meghna likens filmmaking to swimming. "Once you know it, you don’t forget," she says. "The gap has not been a factor at all. However, I hoped that with age, experience, the subject and the written material, I would be better than I have been."
Now that she is back to work, she hopes to maintain the momentum. "Through Talvar, I have realised that I love treading the territory between fact and fiction. I don’t think I ever want to move out of the real space. With this film, I have been reborn as a filmmaker because of the subject, technology, actors and execution."
Does she feel this is a good time in the Hindi film industry for a director like herself? "There is a nice two-way process now – audiences are more receptive and there are filmmakers who are willing to make different types of films. It’s a great time for cinema," she says.
That’s because, she continues, much has changed in the last seven years, from the rise of a whole new talent pool, to filmmaking techniques. "Kangana is a revelation. Rajkummar Rao is finding himself. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Varun (Dhawan) and Sidharth (Malhotra) are making their mark. I have always been a fan of Ranbir. There is great texture of talent in our industry today. I also really like the work of Anurag Basu, Zoya Akhtar and Imtiaz Ali," says Meghna, who, unlike many of her peers, has been a low profile star child.
"I was never raised like a star kid, and then, once I stopped going on outdoor shootings with my mother, my friends circle – which used to be Shweta and Abhishek (Bachchan), Shrishti and Goldie (Behl) and Karisma and Kareena (Kapoor) – changed. My classmates became my friends and they were not connected to films in any way."
One of the boys
Working with Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj is sometimes like butting into an exclusive boys’ club. “I had to throw a bit of a tantrum because I was feeling so left out! They would discuss the song, tune and words among themselves and then tell me. And I was like ‘Hello, can you loop me in on this?’”
Meghna did ask them to rework two songs and accepted one on their third attempt. “They have such a wonderful professional and personal relationship and I love the songs for our film,” she says.
The controversial case does not add to the pressure. “Because this film is not just me; it comprises immense talents such as Vishalji, Irrfan, Konkona, Neeraj Kabi, Atul Kumar, Gajraj Rao and Papa. I know the mettle of the film.”
Her greatest learning from this experience is not to take another seven-year break. “I love doing this. I can’t see myself doing anything else, nor do I know how to do anything else.”
From HT Brunch, September 20
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