Alia Bhatt has perhaps mastered the art of smartly balancing escapist commercial fare with socially-relevant realistic cinema.
She does a Student of the Year and then she goes ahead and surprises everyone with a Highway. There's 2 States and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania but to offset these decidedly commercial entertainers, there's also Udta Punjab, Kapoor and Sons, and Dear Zindagi.
Next, Alia will be seen opposite Ranbir Kapoor in Ayan Mukerjee's superhero film, Dragon.
But before that film rolls, Alia has been signed up to play Sehmat, a Kashmiri woman who marries a Pakistani officer with the intention to source out intelligence details and pass it off to Indian forces.
Vicky Kaushal, who sprang up on the scene with Neeraj Ghaywan's subliminal Masaan, will be essaying the role of the Pakistani officer.
The film will be directed by Meghna Gulzar, who last directed the terrific Talvar (2015), based on the 2008 Noida double-murder of Aarushi Talwar and her family's house-help, Hemraj.
Meghna's film, titled Raazi, is produced by Karan Johar and Junglee Pictures.
It's an adaptation of Harinder Sikka's Calling Sehmat, a novel inspired by the almost-unbelievable real-life story of the woman who Sikka named Sehmat, to protect her identity.
According to the book's author, Harinder Sikka, he had gone to cover the Kargil war and write about the many intelligence failures of the Indian army.
However, during his stint there, an army officer pointed out that there had been people who were risking everything to provide the army with top secret information. Turns out, Sehmat was that army officer's mother, a Kashmiri Muslim, who married a Pakistani officer to spy and provide classified information to Indian intelligence during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Sikka eventually traced down the woman, who was living in Malerkotla in Punjab, and got her to open up about her life's dramatic story, which he chronicled in his novel, part of which was fictionalised to protect her identity.
"I am yet to fathom how Sehmat's father, a rich businessman in Kashmir then, could push his daughter to do such a dangerous thing. It was the ultimate test of patriotism for the family," Sikka told The Hindu in a 2011 interview.
Among the many intelligence tip-offs that Sehmat gave, one of them, according to Sikka, was about Pakistan's plans to sink the INS Viraat, an incident that was eventually averted.
Talking about the film adaptation, Meghna told Mumbai Mirror "I am trying to do something in a new space, recreating India and Pakistan of the '70s on sets and real locations. A lot of research has gone into getting the period and dialect right."
The film, which goes on floors in July, is likely to release in 2018.
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