More than a brave director, a movie requires a braver producer, and both Ram Madhvani- Atul Kasbekar showed a lot of bravery in getting the story of Neerja Bhanot forward after 3 decades. As NEERJA is celebrating the success, we interviewed producer Atul Kasbekar exclusively.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
How did NEERJA happen to you and what was your first reaction when you got the script? I got a 7 pager through one of my partners who has also written MARY KOM. I'm one of the few people who's familiar to Neerja Bhanot. I was studying in the US and everybody knew about the incident that happened in 86. Like everybody at that time, I was also quite affected by the incident. The story also seemed really good - a one that we felt needed to be told. I was sure that if we get permission from the family, the film would be made.
Was approaching Sonam your first choice? What came to your mind? Sonam was the first and the only choice. If Sonam would've said no, then we would've thought about somebody else.
'Sonam Kapoor was the first and only choice for NEERJA'
What made you think that you wanted to become a producer? Was it always on your list? Not really. But recently because of my talent management business called Bliing, we were always involved in movies - from reading scripts to closing reels and even screening the film. I can say a series of circumstances led me to become a producer with NEERJA.
NEERJA had both Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi. So like the audiences, did you also fear that Shabana might just overshadow Sonam? No, not at all. She has one role, while the other actress has another. They both were extremely powerful roles and complimented each other really well. The two even knew each other since a long time and so the mother-daughter bond between them looked extremely real.
Coming to realism, people have questioned the reality relating to the story. So how much realism can we say does NEERJA have? It's pretty much all there. A lot of survivors we spoke to have sent us emails, letters and videos thanking us for keeping the accuracy intact.