Calling Sehmat author to produce movie on next novel

 Calling Sehmat author to produce movie on next novel

Harinder Sikka reveals plans at release of bestseller’s Hindi translation

Saurabh Tankha

Why Jahnvi Kapoor? She was not even remotely connected with the movie — neither did she act in it nor was her father, Boney, its producer. Then why has she been invited? This was my first reaction on receiving the invite for the release of the Hindi translation of Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka that was picked up by filmmaker Meghna Gulzar to create the critically acclaimed movie, Raazi, starring Alia Bhatt. Sikka is the group director, strategic business, Piramal Group.
Could it be a printing error? I thought but then the invitation had come from Penguin Books and they surely wouldn’t make such a mistake. Then I remembered having read somewhere about Sikka penning another book, Vichhoda, and presumed the Dhadak debutante may have been roped in for a movie being made on his upcoming work. So, off I was to the event at Constitution Club, Rafi Marg in the National Capital. This was last weekend. The hall was brimming with people when I reached and getting a place to settle seemed a challenge. But then as luck would have it, I managed one, in the second row.

Calling Sehmat
The event took off around 45 minutes later than the scheduled start. And here I was thinking I would get late for the chief guest happened to be Naval chief Admiral Karambir Singh. Well, blame it on Dilli ka ‘unpredictable traffic’ — With You. For You. Always. Like Delhi Police, if you happen to be late somewhere.
After a quick introduction by Vaishali Mathur, editor-in-chief, Language Publishing, Penguin, RJ Swati was handed over the mic to take the evening forward with the author and the actress on stage with her. Why a majority of the discussion took place in English when we were releasing a book in Hindi still surprises me…
During the half-hour plus conversation, the author revealed how he had met Sehmat. “I wanted to go to Kargil as an embedded journalist as I wanted to write a book on soldiers’ first-hand experience,. — everyone termed it as madness. But all thanks to Lt Gen SS Grewal, I was able to. I remember he had asked me, ‘Who goes there to die?’ and me telling him I have served the Indian Navy and the soldier in me is still alive. I was given permission to accompany the fauj in battle training. I can’t divulge details here but I was brought down forcibly to the Mess soon after as I told them that they all were traitors. I wondered how can they not have an inkling that Pakistan was sitting on their heads, how can they enjoy themselves –. one of the officers  was even court martialled. But I distinctly remember an officer telling me somberly, ‘Not everyone is a traitor, sir. My mother wasn’t’,” shared the former naval officer.
The author continued, “I wanted to know more and write about this woman so I started searching and researching about her. I went looking for the officer who had mentioned that her mother wasn’t a traitor. As soldiers, we are given free train ticket which has address of our destination. Soon I found the solider either went to Malerkotla, a city in Sangrur district of Punjab or Kashmir. So, I went to Malerkotla and found her –she was Sehmat. I had a series of meetings and brief conversations with her. Believe me, every word that Sehmat uttered had a deep-rooted meaning. She gave me strength like none.”
Sikka added a movie can never stand competition to a book. “There are no comparisons. If you haven’t read the book, get a copy of Calling Sehmat and you will get to know that Raazi only has one-fifth of the book’s content. What Sehmat did after the movie ends is a different story altogether. But then, if we had to include everything the book had, the movie would run over six hours. That is not possible,” avered Sikka, adding that Sehmat was a very, very strong woman.

Calling Sehmat
As the subject of strong women took off, RJ Swati asked Jahnvi her views on the growing trend of women-centric movies in Hindi cinema lately. “Women have always been extremely inspiring, be it real or reel life. Women-centric movies have been always a part of Hindi cinema though women-oriented subject is a recent phenomenon. We have had women-centric movies from Mother India, Dor, Pinjar, Water to Damini, Parineeta, Lajja and Lamhe to more recent releases, The Dirty Picture, Mary Kom, Gulaab Gang, Kahani, Queen, NH10,” she said.
During this conversation, I finally managed the answer, though it seemed an illogical one, as to why was Jahnvi invited for the release. And it came from the author himself. “It was in 1983 that I first watched Sridevi in a movie, Sadma, and I became a big fan of hers. Over time, I became friends with Boney Kapoor. When this opportunity to release this book came, I thought someone from the family of my favourite star should attend this event and who better than her daughter,” he said.
Sounds out of place, doesn’t it? With no connect, not even a distant one, between Calling Sehmat’s Hindi translation and Jahnvi, it will be only fair if the Bollywood diva, as RJ Swati termed Jahnvi, lands in the scheme of things when Sikka plans to roll out a movie on his next creative work, Vichhoda.

Calling Sehmat

Till then, Jahnvi can make a trip to Chandni Chowk to gulp down a glass or two of her favourite lassi which she makes a point to have on each of her visits to the National Capital. And yes, we did miss Alia. She surely would have made a better choice for this discussion. After all, she was Sehmat. Aren’t we raazi (agree) on this one?


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