Meghna Gulzar: We are finicky, authoritative and we like it
Meghna, who started her career with Fihaal, a 2002 social drama revolving around surrogacy, said she is a "living example that nepotism does not exist in the film industry".
Meghna Gulzar on Monday said she is okay with being tagged as a finicky and authoritative director as she believes these qualities reflect in her films. The filmmaker was asked to comment on the perception that a male director exercising control is called "genius", while his female counterpart is branded "crazy".
"We are finicky, extremely detail-oriented, very authoritative and we like it like that. And that's what shows in our work, which you all like and see," Meghna said. She was speaking at the in-conversation session 'Calling The Shots: Women Directors in Indian Cinema', moderated by director Shashank Khaitan at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
Meghna, who started her career with "Fihaal", a 2002 social drama revolving around surrogacy, said she is a "living example that nepotism does not exist in the film industry". "My first film failed miserably. It took me seven years to make my second film. It didn't matter what my last name was. It was only after that my films succeeded that it became easier for me to make my fourth film. Again it didn't matter what my last name was. What mattered was how the film fared."
The film featured Sushmita Sen and Tabu in lead roles but producers said the men -- Sanjay Suri and Palash Sen -- traditionally had nothing to do. After two years of struggle, late producer Jhamu Sugandh decided to back the movie. Meghna recalled, "He said, 'I don't need men to make this film. You get me two strong women and you just go for it.'"
The filmmaker, whose last release "Raazi" crossed Rs 100-crore mark at the box office, said things are getting better and they will continue to do so in future. The film is part of IFFI's Indian Panorama section and will be screened on Monday. She said she wanted to make a dark comedy initially and she was told that it was "tricky and it won't work".
"It is conviction that has to keep you afloat. You're second guessing your decisions and sensibility, wondering if you want to align with the mainstream sensibility in the world of the films you're making. It's not like I didn't try, I did. I must have written four scenes, then I stopped. Then I said, 'no this is not me'. 'I'm never going to be able to take it to the end, I will never be able to execute it'. The wait got longer but the only thing that will keep you going is the perseverance. You keep writing, creating and trying. Hoping that you will get lucky. But nothing is instant. Guts of steel, I think, being thick-skinned helps," she said.
The director, who is the daughter of celebrated poet-writer Gulzar, said when her films did not do well, the reviews got personal. "They (reviewers) didn't stay only with the realm of the film... That also happens in our fraternity when you're reviewing a film, you're also reviewing the director, the actor, which is very demoralising for a young person who's just starting out. So these are the pitfalls. But on the flipside, if things start working and your film starts getting loved, it's another whole new world of sunshine. Nothing ever matches up to it... It was more about honing your craft, not your sensibility. Otherwise you're betraying your conviction," she said.
The director said actors test her like they would do with any other director. "But once you win their confidence in your preliminary processes, then you have your actor with you holding you shoulder-to-shoulder on your film," she added.
Her next projects are film on Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and she will be working with Deepika Padukone on a film based on the life of acid attack survivor, Laxmi Agarwal. Filmmakers Gauri Shinde and Leena Yadav were also part of the panel.
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