The most common question Meghna Gulzar has to field is, ‘What’s it like being the daughter of such famous parents?’ It’s also a subject she is tackling in her new release Talvar, where the tragedy of a daughter’s loss puts the parents in the hot seat. Roles are reversed.
It couldn’t have been easy for Meghna Gulzar to live in the shadow of her celebrity parents. She hopes to change that with Talvar, which has been receiving enthusiastic reviews since it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month. Variety called it a ‘well-crafted whodunit’ and praised Talvar for its Rashomon-style execution of multiple-viewpoint dramaturgy. (Read the Scroll.in review.)
Meghna could finally be coming into her own. But the journey has been long and arduous. She was barely in her twenties when she began assisting her father on the tele-serial Kirdaar. She made two documentaries for Doordarshan on domestic workers and private security agencies, but her work with her father gave her exposure to ‘film material’.
Meghna had her first brush with actual film-making in an episode based on a short story by Urdu writer Rajinder Singh Bedi, titled Rehman Ke Joote. She is credited in one other episode.
Meghna then assisted Gulzar on his films Maachis (1996) and Hu Tu Tu (1999), working on the scripts. Picking the thread of the story’s importance in a script, she broke out to write and direct her own film, Filhaal (2002). The film explored the subject of surrogacy and was considered ahead of its time.
Meghna waited another five years to make a film on a lighter subject. But Just Married (2007) didn’t give her the breather she was hoping for. The same year she also directed a short film as part of the Dus Kahaniyaan anthology, but the well-intentioned short was lost in the hype. However, it helped her form a team with director and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj, who has been a long-time collaborator of Gulzar's.
Meghna remembers the time: ‘Vishal ji was like a great support on this because this subject and the genre are completely unknown to me. He is an accomplished writer. When he watched Dus Kahaniyaan, he was so impressed that he expressed his wish to produce my film and that did happen after 8 years.’
The result of that long wait is Talvar. Meanwhile, she wrote a book on her father, Because He Is…
Speaking of her father’s influence on her work, Meghna wants the message to be loud and clear: she is different from him, although she does value his brevity. ‘Trying to keep it simple and brief is something I learnt from my father.’
The only time Meghna Gulzar could have got away from her famous parents, or, in particular, far from her father’s looming presence, is when, at 15, actor Kamal Hassan asked him for permission to cast Meghna as his heroine. She could have become famous sooner, but perhaps she would never have made Talvar in that case.