Apart from being a critically acclaimed film Neerja has also worked like magic for Sonam Kapoor's career. And much of the kudos behind this would go to director Ram Madhvani, who is touted as the new director to look out for. Here's an extract from a chat with the director who had to wait for 14 years after his first film to make his next!
What are the best compliments that you have received for the film?
I got a call from Mr Maruti Rao, one of the persons behind the Gollapudi Awards, and he said 'you have made a life-sized film'. I think that is a great comment. In another case an airhostess on a Delhi flight told us that after the film's release people look at their profession with new found respect. There are a lot of other compliments. I get a lot of SMS and I will print and them. Some day it might all become a book!
How did Sonam Kapoor become a part of your film?
Atul Kasbekar had told me that Sonam is involved with the film when he had approached me to direct it. I had no problems. Sonam and I met for dinner at home and we found we had a similar view on how the film should be among other things.
Sonam Kapoor is often at the receiving end of lot of backlash on social media...
If you are climbing the Mount Everest you will face obstacles. We are in a space where there will be a continuous conversation. If you do not want them, do not climb! It is through this road of trials that you will discover yourself. We are in a space of work where it cannot be a monologue. And we have to be open to what people think about our work. And whether what they think and feel is right or wrong is all a part of the game.
You apparently wanted to make films since you were a teenager. Tell us about your journey.
My father had passed away while I was pretty young. My elder brothers have had a lot of impact on my life. I was studying at Sydenham and did some theatre there. However I had to leave college and continue with correspondence because I needed to earn a living. I did a number of jobs from selling carpets to milk before I joined one of my elder brothers in New York. He understood my desire to be in films and offered to pay for my education in NYU. When I came back to India I joined Equinox as a trainee. Later I became a partner in the company, thanks to Sumantra Ghosal, who is like my third elder brother.
Why did you take 14 years to make your second film after a rather acclaimed first film, Let's Talk?
It made a documentary on Mr Bachchan called Everlasting Light and I directed songs for Taare Zameen Par and Satyameva Jayate. But in between I did try to make other films, none of which actually worked out. I think things work out when the time is right.
You were to make Talisman with Amitabh Bachchan.
Yes. However we decided not go ahead with it because we were not quite happy with the script. We had worked on 14 drafts! I told Vidhu that it is not working out and I must appreciate the fact that he said it's ok too. Sometimes you start journeys but you never quite the reach the destination due to various reasons.
There were reports of some people, from the hijacked plane, not quite liking the heroic depiction of Neerja in the film. Did you read them?
Yes we did. We meant no disrespect to anyone on the flight and tried to make the most honest film possible. However you cannot take away the fact that Neerja did do most of the things we showed - she gave the hijack call, she opened the emergency exit and did not escape while she could have, she saved three kids and died while doing so. She also, along with other air hostesses, hide American passports. She also got those awards, including the Ashoka Chakra and the one from Pakistan for human kindness.
What about your next(film)?
I would like to talk about it only when things actually happen on paper. As of now I am just trying understand where do I go from here.
Is the film releasing in Pakistan?
I hope it does. Malala also has supported the film.
Finally, You have been an ad-man. You HappyDent ad got you lot of acclaim. What have you learnt from ads.
Yes, I think it was voted as one of the 20 best ads of the millennium. Advertising has taught me a lot of things, including how to say something and how the audience feels. It allows me to reach 800 million people and be a part of the households of people across the country.