Meghna Gulzar: Couldn't have Vikrant Massey behave like filmy hero

Updated: Jan 12, 2020, 07:29 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

As Vikrant Massey's understated character in Deepika Padukone-starrer Chhapaak wins praise, director Meghna Gulzar discusses writing sensitive parts for men in times of machismo-driven films.

A still from Chhapaak
A still from Chhapaak

I did not make this film to specifically give out a message to the men," begins director Meghna Gulzar whose Chhapaak—that highlights an episode of violence against women—has opened to rave reviews. The human drama may be a Deepika Padukone show all the way as she brings alive the story of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal on celluloid, but the deft treatment of Vikrant Massey's character too has earned praise. Through his part, that is modelled on Alok Dixit (Agarwal's partner), the writer-director has given us a strong yet sensitive man, who joins Padukone's character in her fight against the sale of acid.

Ask her if women filmmakers weave more empathetic male characters as they mirror their own projections of what they hope from the men in their lives, and she says, "I don't have the lens for gender. If you can speak to humanity at a generic level, the gender issue will sort itself out. I have been fortunate to write and direct male characters that are noble and sensitive. With Vikrant, we were guided purely by the story we were telling, the real-life reference and the sensibility of the writer and filmmaker involved. I couldn't have Vikrant do things that you'd associate with a filmy hero. Such [supportive] men also exist as much as those we show on screen."

Meghna Gulzar
Meghna Gulzar. Pic/ Yogen Shah

The writer-director has a knack for creating male characters that are refreshingly divorced from the macho parts that Bollywood often churns out. In her last offering, Raazi (2018), Gulzar brought depth to the role of Iqbal, that was enhanced further by Vicky Kaushal's performance. As a Pakistani major who discovers that his wife is an Indian spy, the character of Iqbal was valiant, yet vulnerable. She emphasises, "The acceptance that Vicky's character got proves that there's appreciation for characters that are not larger-than-life heroes. These are real men, and we have to celebrate them."

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