A month after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, author of Calling Sehmat (2008), Harinder S Sikka has opened up on the alleged marginalisation by the legendary writer-poet Gulzar and his daughter Meghna Gulzar. The alleged accusation’s time-line revolved around the release of Raazi in 2018 and beyond.
Sikka who was a former Naval Commander and author of much-acclaimed book Calling Sehmat (2008), based on the life of an undisclosed Kashmiri Muslim Indian spy. The book was later adapted into the Bollywood film ‘Raazi’.
While the Bollywood adaptation won critical acclaim and many awards, Sikka was always left on the sidebars, unnoticed. The published writer has finally spoken for himself, revealing that he is unhappy with director Meghna Gulzar and her father poet-lyricist Gulzar, because Sikka feels they marginalised him all along the Raazi journey. Even though the writer was acknowledged and was given credits for his work, Sikka revealed that throughout the journey of the movie he was totally disregarded, disrespected by Gulzar and his daughter.
Sikka, in an interview with Beyond Bollywood, opened up about his side of the story and revealed that Gulzar had begged him to give his daughter Meghna a chance as a director. “He had pleaded saying that my daughter hasn’t worked for four years since Talvar (2015). This story, Calling Sehmat, was strong to make anybody a successful director, provided nothing was changed,” Sikka said.
Sikka then went on to sign the deal with the Junglee Picture’s former president, Priti Shahani, under the condition that the film would be directed only by Meghna and nobody else.
“Meghna was struggling after Talvar (2015) and the reason behind this was that the market was abuzz that Talvar wasn’t made by her but by Vishal Bhardwaj.” Sikka further added that when he asked Bhardwaj about it, he simply said, “This is my gurudakshina to my guru, Gulzar”. It was at that moment, Sikka realised that Meghna grabbed all the credit of Vishal’s.
As soon as Meghna was signed as director, the Gulzars started disconnecting Sikka from the film rights. They titled the film ‘Raazi’ instead of ‘Calling Sehmat’, which was against the agreement. “Meghna called me, pleading that it was her father’s wish that this film be called Raazi,” said Sikka.
Sikka added, “I was removed from all kinds of mentions, anything to do with Raazi. They removed me from facebook, twitter, YouTube, anything where Raazi was mentioned, there was no mention of me. Till the film was released, nobody knew that it was written by Harinder Sikka. I wasn’t invited for anything.”
The IIFA Awards for ‘Original Story’ went to the film called Andhadhun (2018), which wasn’t even an original story. Sikka later found out that the award wasn’t given to Raazi because of Gulzar’s pressure, because he only wanted to promote his daughter and disconnected Sikka from everywhere else. “An IIFA official, who is a diehard fan of Calling Sehmat, had told me categorically that even though mine was the only original story, I will not get the award because I am an outsider. S/he apologised as s/he could do nothing about it,” Sikka revealed.
Sikka also added that he wasn’t shown the film before release and he believed it was all part of Gulzar’s plan. Sikka further revealed that he was shunned out of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) because of Gulzar. “Meghna and Gulzar were coming on the same day to talk at the Literature Festival. My presence would have made them uncomfortable because I would have told the world that I wrote the story,” Sikka said.
Sikka added, “Fortunately, Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, is not someone who can be bullied easily. He wrote an email to me where he mentioned categorically that it was Gulzar who was bullying him.”
When Sikka confronted Gulzar about the same, it came to the light that ‘Penguin pictures’ were upset with Sikka because he gave the contract to Junglee Pictures. “They had meticulously planned everything just to relaunch Meghna Gulzar and in the bargain do another Sushant. They wanted to make me a case study like Sushant Singh Rajput,” said Sikka.
Sikka added, “According to me, Meghna Gulzar is unfit to direct such a film Manekshaw on a legendary military officer. She is a Pakistani protagonist. She will alter history.” Sikka claims that he had also received threats online, which tagged Meghna Gulzar and had an image of Gurpreet carrying a sword with the text in the backdrop reading, Hum sochte nahi, thokte hain [We don’t think, we just kill].
“I made a blunder in hiring Meghna Gulzar, a blunder in making a promise to Gulzar,” Sikka regrets.