Mystery, Thriller+Suspense

Book Review- Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka

The movie Raazi hit the theatres last Friday, and has been garnering a considerable amount of positive reviews. It is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s Calling Sehmat, a fictitious account of a supposedly real spy. I watched the movie this evening. But before I did that, I obviously had to read the book.

Let me make a point clear at the onset. This post isn’t a comparison between the movie and the book. I don’t intend to pass a judgment on which one is better. The book and the movie are good in their own way and need to be looked at independently. The only thing they share in common is the plot, and both have been rendered in a way the author/director deemed best.

The book is a thriller of a kind, speaking volumes about the courage and determination of a young Kashmiri girl. Sehmat may have been like any other girl, yet there she was giving herself up completely to the service of the nation. Taking up her father’s mantle she seeks her entry into enemy territories by marrying a military officer in a Pakistani family. A quest that’s dangerous in every way, Sehmat passes on some valuable information to the Indian Intelligence agencies. Her information serves as a crucial lead helping uncover Pakistan’s gargantuan plan of attacking INS Vikrant, India’s sole aircraft carrier way back then.

Why would anyone risk their life to become a spy? Reading the early chapters in the book, gives a perfect glimpse and a better understanding of the person Sehmat actually was. She owed her patriotic upbringing to her father Hidayat, a constant guide in her life. He instills the true meaning of secularism and what loving ones country actually is. It is this patriotic upbringing that makes her take up the role as a spy, even though she has to give up the man she loved, her family, and her own home and country. Risking her life to great heights, she passes on vital information that’s indispensable to India, of Pakistan’s plan to sink INS Vikrant.

Spy thrillers are often the most riveting of books. They are edge-of-the-seat kind tales and hook you right until the end. Harinder Sikka narrates the book in third person. I loved the fact that he didn’t go overboard with the history bit and stuck to the basics. The simplicity in laying bare the facts, gives a fairly decent glimpse of the actual flow of events during the 1971 Indo- Pak war and, the Indian Navy’s role in it (well, thanks to being married to a man in white uniform serving the nation, I could relate to it a great deal).

Harinder’s writing may be basic in form. Yet, it is the story that he has brought out that speaks for itself. Don’t expect a Paulo Coelho or Frederick Forsyth here. Just go with the flow of the story and you would not be disappointed. Sehmat and her quest will draw you right into the pages of the book. Harinder Sikka claims the book is inspired from real events. But all that I can say is irrespective of what is real or, how much is inspired, Calling Sehmat is a poignant tale, of a girl with two contrasting sides- sensitive and passionate as well as heroic and ruthless.

And whether you watch the movie or not, the book is definitely worth your time!

Calling Sehmat was first published earlier in 2008. However I don’t think it garnered much popularity. The book has been republished and is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

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