Shabana Azmi is one of the artists everybody looks up to. After playing a teacher in CHALK N DUSTER, she will be seen playing Sonam Kapoor's mother Rama Bhanot in NEERJA. We got to interview this actress and she had a lot to speak.
Here are some excerpts:
Is it difficult working in a biopic?
Yes. It is, and particularly if the people involved are still around. Getting the physicality correct is the much easier part. It's an overwhelming experience that a family has trusted you with what's the most important story of their lives. It becomes incumbent to everybody who's involved to not betray that trust, to keep the spirit of the characters alive. Because films are different from life, they are bound to say some things are incorrect. You don't want to betray the trust but also let them know that since it's a film, there will be certain liberties which will not deviate too much from the original. Because I had the pleasure of meeting Rama ji and was struck by her spiritedness and warmth, I felt that those qualities were something I needed to keep alive in playing the part.
When you knew about the incident, did you think the movie should've been made before?
No. Timing is no argument, because then historicals shouldn't be made. It's not like Elizabeth shouldn't be made today, because she was of that times. There isn't something like a correct time. It's a story.
When you were playing Rama Bhanot, did you face any difficulties?
No. We did lots of intensive workshops. It was very important that a family needed to feel like a family. It's a very strange demand of actors that you are suddenly introduced to some people and then told that have some relation with them in the film. It was good that we were able to establish a certain level of comfort with each other during the workshops. When you see the family, you find it believable. What Ram has managed to get is the balance of what is basically a thriller but with a very strong family emotional bond. Neerja was very close to her family and particularly to her mother. People have sensed that from the trailer itself, which is good.
'Anil Kapoor is hardworking; Sonam Kapoor put herself out a big deal for NEERJA'
Sonam became really emotional during the trailer launch. Did you also come across a scene which was emotionally draining for you?
There are two scenes - one where Neerja's body is brought, and the other is almost the last scene where I make a speech. There were many expectations also from the scene, which was burdensome. But with that, I learnt my lines rather than rehearsing the emotions, because I felt that wouldn't be truthful. So we did a straight take which was fine and then we did two more takes because we needed different camera angles. That was very draining because the emotion was fine in one take, but when you redo it, you've to be very careful to see that you don't imitate what you've done, because then it won't work. Moreover, you never know which take will be there in the movie. You can't even change it completely. So you have to keep the intensity yet redo the take, which is very draining.
Recently in an interview Ram ji said most scenes from the movie was done in one take. So what were your preparations like?
If Ram could help it, he would've done the whole film in one take. Mercifully he couldn't do that. For the actors, the demand was much because Ram likes a lot of simultaneity of action. He likes chaos and unpredictability because real life doesn't have clean frames, but a lot of background too. He kept both the actors and the DOPs on their toes. You never know when he'd suddenly tell you to change your position. It was a very constraint place in which we were working. So it was in a sense, like theatre, where you've to be prepared with the whole gammed that you're doing. Normally, to do it successfully, you need actors of a certain caliber and experience, but here there was a mix of both freshers and experienced. I was a little concerned about how it'll all fall into place, but it did.
You have worked with Anil Kapoor in his earlier days. How was it working with Sonam, who is also in the initial days of her career?
Anil is extremely hardworking. He might be 11 years old when he did a film where he played a younger Shashi Kapoor, who needed to learn a sitar. He wouldn't tell anybody at home and take a bus from Chembur to Peddar Road to take sitar lessons. That wad the kind of passion he had then. Sonam has also put herself out a great deal for this movie. She has endured bodily harm, mental torture and everything else. She's given this movie a lot and I think that's going to reward her because people are going to be surprised and like her very much in NEERJA.
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