Sometimes we watch movie and then read the book that the movie has been adapted from and we end up thinking that the movie hasn’t done even a least bit of justice to the book and the characters mentioned in the book. That is exactly how I felt when I read calling Sehmat. I actually read this book after I watched the movie Raazi that is made based on this book. I simply loved the movie and the way Alia Bhatt portrayed the character of Sehmat in the movie. She was quite convincing and mind blowing in the movie. As a part of the audience I could feel the emotions she was going through and feel the pain that she was enduring throughout the screen time. But when I walked out of the theatre I felt that there was something missing in the movie, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s why I actually picked the book calling Sehmat. After reading the book I could exactly understand why I was feeling like there was something missing in the movie. There is a world of difference between the Sehmat portrayed in the book and the Sehmat played by Alia Bhatt in the movie.
In this post I will not just be reviewing the book but I will also be comparing it to the movie to show what a huge difference one can experience between watching a movie and reading a book. So for those of you who haven’t watched the movie or read the book, Calling Sehmat is based on a true story of a teenage Kashmiri girl who ends up getting inserted into a Pakistani family as an Indian spy. To keep her cover intact she is married to a Pakistani general and enters in to Pakistan as a daughter in law of highly reputed family.
When the movie opens, an army major is shown addressing a bunch of generals and he is speaking about Sehmat and all her valiant actions that saved India at a tough time. Among the generals is a young general and by the name tag on his uniform, he is identified as Samar Khan. Samar Khan is Sehmat’s son. In the book, it is Samar that is narrating the story of Sehmat and her battle.
When Sehmat is introduced in the movie, she is portrayed as this young girl that is very soft hearted and kind. She is the kind of person that wouldn’t bare to hurt even a bird or a bee. She is shown saving a squirrel from getting crushed under a motorcycle and in the process she herself would have been harmed if not for her friend that runs in and saves her at the right moment. Throughout the movie, Sehmat is shown as the same soft-hearted, weak and delicate girl that goes about her mission but with a lot of fear and guilt. Be it when setting up her spying instruments or getting rid of any threats to her cover. Be it framing an innocent for her mistakes or kidnapping and blackmailing so that she can get out of a tough spot. She does it all because of her superior training, but through it all, she is portrayed as this fearful and remorseful girl who is unable to bear the stress and struggle of it all.
This is completely different from the Sehmat portrayed in the book. In the book, Sehmat is portrayed as this strong-willed, brave-hearted girl who is like no other girl in the entire country. Until the moment the plan of inserting her into Pakistan as a spy reaches her ears, she is a happy go lucky college girl who is deeply in love with an amazing boy called Aby. But then, her fate changes and she gets to know of her father’s terminal illness and that her father expects her to take over his place as a spy. The love for her country was passed down through generations and her father had ever missed even a single opportunity to impart the patriotism into Sehmat. So, there was nothing really to think about or choose for her. She was more than willing to sacrifice her love, her parents, her family, her country and even her own life for the sake of her motherland. The moment she accepts the offer and starts training, Sehmat turns herself into nothing but a soldier who is fighting for her country. She knows that everything was fair in war and she worked through her mission with the same mindset. She did not second guess or falter in her stance even for a single split second. Be it while killing a person that was about to blow her cover or kidnap a child to blackmail her escape. She was quick, smart and cunning throughout the mission. She did not miss even a single opportunity or slack from her duty
At the end, when her trainer and her father’s best friend, Mir tries to plan Sehmat’s escape and retrieval, things do not go as planned. Sehmat is almost going to be captured by the Pakistani army. At this moment, Mir made a tough and heart-breaking decision to sacrifice Sehmat instead of letting her be captured by the enemy. He knew that death would be far less painful than for her to be captured as a spy. So he plants a bomb and after the blast, he and his envoy assemble at their secret location and prepare to leave for India. At this time, Sehmat is shown to have somehow escaped the blast and she returns to the secret location, alive.
This whole incident is portrayed just the same in the book as well as the movie. What differs is what follows the blast. In the movie, when Sehmat returns, she is all broken and crying. She screams at Mir for blasting the bomb as her husband is sacrificed in the blast. She also criticizes Mir for deciding to kill her even after everything she has done for the country. She is shown heart-broken and grieving beyond her strength.
However, in the book, when Sehmat returns to the secret location, she simply looks at Mir and says, “So this is your secret location huh?” She is absolutely nonchalant about the whole situation and when she sees the questioning looks on Mir and his envoy, she smiles and explains how she knew that she was going to be captured and hence she very tactfully switched herself with her own sister in law and sent her along with her husband so no one would have a doubt, not even Mir. When the bomb blasted, killing her husband and her sister-in law, she was standing at a safe distance watching the whole scene. She later follows Mir and his envoy to their secret location. Finally she says, “I am ready to get back to my watan!”
That is the kind of strength and bravery that gets Sehmat through her mission, successfully. She not only extracts every last bit of information on what Pakistan has planned against the Indian Army, she also breaks through the wards of the most prestigious and respected military family of Pakistan and turn them to dust! The kind of Sehmat portrayed in the movie could never have done it as well as the Sehmat portrayed in the book.
What gets Sehmat at the end is PTSD or Post Trumatic Stress Disorder which is very common among war veterans. Until the war ends, they fight bravely and valiantly without showing a single moment of weakness. But after all is over and they are back in the safety of their home, the ghosts of their past starts to haunt them. The stress, the guilt and the remorse all takes over them completely until they do not recognize themselves anymore. This is what happens to Sehmat as well. As the guilt and remorse of all her actions catches up to her, she is plunged into darkness and depression. So much so that she doesn’t even care for her own son. Her college love, Aby is the one who comes in and takes Samar into his care. For nearly five years, Samar is raised by Aby while Sehmat fights through her depression. Only when she is cured of her mental issues does she ask Aby to bring Samar back to her. Along with Aby, She raises Samar into a strong young man who joins the Indian Army himself. That is the story of the fiercest, bravest and strong hearted young woman who changed the way people look at female population in general.
This book is one to be treasured guys. It should be passed down to generations of daughters and granddaughters to show them that a girl can achieve just about anything if she outs her heart and mind to it. A woman can be just as brave and strong as any army general or navy personal. She can be smart, quick, kind, savvy, sassy and set an example to everyone in the world.
The kind of experience one gets from watching “Raazi” cannot come even close to the kind of experience and emotions that “Calling Sehmat” can arise in a person. The movie is good at its genre but the book is totally kickass.
You can get a copy of this book by CLICKING HERE.