In 2018, Meghna Gulzar’s spy thriller Raazi made headlines more for its real character than anything else in the movie. The movie created a buzz in the media for its substance and unique patriotic content. After the trailer launch of the movie, Alia Bhatt‘s character was found to be inspired by a real-life character, an Indian Kashmiri woman Sehmat Khan. Let’s delve into detail about Sehmat Khan and her inspiring story:
An Adaptation of A Novel
Film ‘Raazi’ is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’ novel titled ‘Calling Sehmat.’ Harinder Sikka is a former Indian Navy officer. The novel ‘Calling Sehmat’ was brought out by Konark Publishers.
The Real Sehmat Khan
During an interview with The Hindu, Harinder Sikka explained how he unearthed the story of Sehmat. He said that during the 1999 Kargil War, he had visited Kargil to write media articles on the Indian Army’s alleged intelligence failure there. Sikka became furious over the intelligence failure and questioned the patriotism of certain people in the Intelligence Wing. It was there, during one such discussion, that he met an army officer who told him that not everyone is the same. The army officer went on to give the example of his mother, which was much to Sikka’s surprise.
Even Sehmat Khan is a Fictional Name
Stumbled by the existence of any such woman, Harinder Sikka decided to pen down her story and named her Sehmat Khan, to allow her to remain in anonymity. It took Sikka 8 years to fictionalise her story. “It was important to fictionalise it as it would have been dangerous for her family,” Sikka says.
Story of Sehmat
Inspired by the patriotic tale of Sehmat, Harinder Sikka tried to find out Sehmat and finally met her at her house in Maler Kotla, in Punjab. Initially, she was reluctant to speak. Slowly, she opened up about her journey as an undercover spy. Sehmat was the daughter of a Kashmiri Muslim businessman and married a Pakistani Army officer to provide India with classified information during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. It was her father who pushed Sehmat to do such a dangerous thing. She was trained to be a facilitator only; however, she went above her assigned duty. Working as an Indian undercover spy in Pakistan, one of the most significant pieces of information shared by Sehmat was Pakistan’s plan to sink INS Viraat (now decommissioned). India could save its biggest pride on the sea only because of her. While in Pakistan, Sehmat also used to tutor General Yahya Khan’s grandchildren.
Sehmat: A True Patriot
After her espionage stint in Pakistan, pregnant Sehmat returned to India, where she gave birth to her son who went on to become an Indian Army Officer. In lieu of her service to the nation, all she wanted was to unfurl the Indian National Flag at her house. Although the Indian Flag Code didn’t allow the tricolour to be unfurled at any private building, till her death, Sehmat did it, unofficially. Harinder Sikka, who has penned down ‘Calling Sehmat’ says, “Despite being an ex-soldier myself, I feel proud to admit that I learnt the real meaning of patriotism from her story.”
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