Alia Bhatt as Sehmat in Raazi: Who was the real Sehmat Khan?

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There is something riveting about spy stories. The thrill of the cat-and-mouse chase, the action, and the carefully crafted intrigue is the perfect recipe for a commendable espionage thriller.

The trailer of Meghna Gulzar’s spy thriller Raazi, starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal, has just hit the web. Alia plays the role of a spy, who juggles between the duties of a dutiful wife, an obedient daughter, and a fearless and patriotic spy.

The film is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat.

Before you watch Raazi, find out what Calling Sehmat, which is based on true events, is all about.

THE BOOK

The book tells the tale of Sehmat, an Indian Kashmiri woman, who married a Pakistani officer, as instructed by her father, during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

It opens with her death and is set long after she has carried out her mission (no spoilers here). Her son Samar enters the room where her body is laid. Her body is covered by the Indian flag, which is meant to be “protecting her against the rays of the sun.”

This sets the tone of the novel. After touching upon her college days, the story focuses on her training as an Indian spy, and then zeroes in on the naval warfare during the 1971 war.

On her own, Sehmat carefully devised methods to get closer to the military in Pakistan, and saved millions of lives of Indian soldiers, by informing them about enemy positions, troop movements and strike blueprints across the border.

Going by the book, Sehmat seems to be an emblem of secularism, who prays to Jesus, Allah, Krishna and Wahe Guru. The point the author wishes to drive across? Religion does not matter; only faith and service count.

WHO WAS THE REAL SEHMAT?

In a 2008 interview to The Hindu, Sikka elaborated on how he unearthed the story of Sehmat. During the 1999 Kargil War, he was disillusioned with the idea of patriotism.

And then, he stumbled across the existence of a woman whose name he refused to share, since it could be dangerous for her.

For his readers, she became Sehmat Khan.

After much effort, Sikka met Sehmat at her house in Maler Kotla, Punjab.

“But she would not speak much. Slowly, she opened up but I still don’t know how she managed to take out such secret information from Pakistani intelligence. All the information she passed on from there matched with the Indian intelligence report here,” he said, adding, “Though I found out that she used to tutor General Yahya Khan’s grandchildren.”

The most vital piece of information that Sehmat provided to India was Pakistan’s plan of sinking INS Viraat. That saved millions of lives.

Sikka took eight years to fictionalise her story, as it could pose a serious threat to her family. Her son is no longer in the Army, and Sehmat is long gone.

Meghna Gulzar had once said in an interview that Raazi means ‘sehmat’, which means, to agree. And that seems to fit perfectly with the plot of the story.