To be born the daughter of the illustrious poet-filmmaker Gulzar and the hauntingly beautiful actress Raakhee is a mixed blessing for Meghna Gulzar.
The young and talented woman who is now ready with her first directorial venture Filhaal [For Now], says doors do open for her when her parents' names are mentioned, "but finally you are on your own."
She is not afraid of being compared with her father. "I am prepared for them. I know if Filhaal does well, people will turn around and say her father directed it. But I won't let them affect my work. His only contribution to my film are the lyrics."
She does also add that she has in no way emulated her father's style or themes: "But I am sure I have been influenced by him since my personality has been shaped by my father."
Meghna is not willing to reveal too many details about the plot. Filhaal is the story of two friends: Rewa and Sia, played by Tabu and Sushmita Sen and the events in their life which cause agony and ecstasy.
Tabu is almost an in-house actress for the Gulzars (she considers Gulzar her adopted father and has given award-winning performances in his films Maachis and Hu Tu Tu. She was the first to be signed for Meghna's Filhaal.
Sushmita Sen was selected for the part of the gregarious all-giving friend, after Aishwarya Rai and several other topnotch actresses shied off being pitched against Tabu.
The debutante director is all praise for Sushmita: "When I met Sushmita, I instinctively knew she would carry off the role brilliantly. She did."
The producer Jhamu Sughand (who has backed several notable projects in recent times including Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1947 - Earth and Lagaan) agreed almost immediately to produce Meghna's film.
However, like several women directors in India, Meghna had a tough time casting the male actors in her first film: "Every leading actor presumed I was making a female-oriented film. For a female director it is always an uphill task to cast male characters."
Meghna finally settled for the young model-turned-actor Sanjay Suri, who plays Raveena Tandon's brother-in-law in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman, and singer Palash Sen. "I'm very happy with all the performances and with the way Filhaal has shaped up. But I am not fully satisfied. And thank God for that. Complete satisfaction is akin to complacency."
Filhaal was born from an idea Meghna had two years ago. It deals with the sensitive subject of surrogate motherhood. Tabu is the woman who cannot bear children and Sushmita Sen is the girl who offers to be a surrogate mother.
Meghna is one among a new breed of star children who have chosen to remain behind the camera instead of courting stardom. After Meghna later this year, we shall see director Ramesh Sippy's (Sholay) son make his directorial debut with Kuch Na Kaho, featuring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. Umrao Jaan director Muzaffar Ali's son Shaad Ali makes his directorial beginning with Saathiya, a remake of Mani Ratnam's Tamil hit Alai Payuthey, featuring Rani Mukherji and Vivek Oberoi.
If Filhaal does as well as it is expected to, it would prove a breakthrough for women filmmakers after Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, we present for you a package on interviews with the star cast, the director, the designers, the composer and last, but not the least, Meghna's parents Gulzar and Raakhee.
Text: Subhash K Jha
Design: Uday Kuckian