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We never thought of commercial gain while writing NEERJA, say Saiwyn Quadras & Sanyuktha Chawla

February 26, 2016 6:15:56 PM IST
By Rachana Sheth, Glamsham Editorial
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NEERJA is currently soaring high on the box-office and winning accolades from all corners. Certainly, Sonam Kapoor's sterling performance and ad filmmaker-turned-film director Ram Madhvani's meticulous direction is being raved about. But the credit for NEERJA's stupendous success also goes to its crisp writing. Saiwyn Quadras (SQ) & Sanyuktha Chawla (SC), who joined hands for NEERJA, are the writers behind this heart-touching and poignant story.

While Saiwyn Quadras conceptualized MARY KOM story in June 2001, he thought of NEERJA when MARY KOM was being shot. In fact it is being held that he was the one who had recommend Sonam Kapoor for NEERJA. On the other hand, Sanyuktha has been an assistant director and script supervisor at Yash Raj Films for blockbuster movie HUM TUM and FANAA. She also wrote screenplay/dialogues for films with Tips, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shyam Bajaj, Raj and DK, Kunal Kohli and been a part of many of the outstanding projects.

And after a wonderful complimentary collaboration with Saiwyn Quadros on NEERJA, she has signed her next film as dialogue writer with him for Mukta Arts.

As we caught up with the writer duo they talked about challenges penning NEERJA, their aim of telling a moving story through a powerful character like ‘Neerja'.

Here are the excerpts:

After MARY KOM, it's NEERJA. Two biopics back-to-back. Are you focusing on biopics? Or it's a strategic move to make it big in Bollywood?
SC: Saiwyn is truly proving his worth as someone who has very keen eye for moving stories of particular persons in our country. However, I do believe he is a talented writer and will do justice any story that comes his way. 

Did you guys anticipate NEERJA to be so successful?
SQ: Not anticipate, we hoped that it would be. No one wants a film to not work! We knew that NEERJA is in safe hands with Ram Madhvani. We all were very moved by the incident and stories of NEERJA that we had heard from the family. Ram is a real visionary and does not instruct, but inspires people into joining his vision. Every single department has gone above the call of duty for NEERJA and we all hoped that audiences would see this.

While Mary Kom must have been an easy task for you considering her availability, how was it penning for NEERJA (who's not present with us)?How you-all could come up with the experiences and the emotions of NEERJA?
SQ: NEERJA was a tough film to write, this was a real person, her family had talked to us so much about her that a ‘person' had formed in my head. Ram wanted it to be emotional story at the end of it, so spent many many hours listening to Rama Bhanot's recorded interviews. There was an energy in her, that I really wanted to capture. Later when I met Shabani ji, she said the same thing about Rama Bhanot and played that energy spectacularly.

SQ: Neerja herself had such grace but she was vivacious and full of life. Sonam herself is so graceful and yet so real, she naturally lent herself to being Neerja. For NEERJA, I observed Sonam - she has an innocence and positivity about her that brought alive ‘Neerja' for me.

SC: The terrorists were a huge challenge, I wrote all their dialogues in Urdu first, then they were translated to Arabic and then into English for sub-titling. We had lots of research on their intention for hi-jacking the plane and their reactions thereafter. Saiwyn had handpicked the most dramatic incidents for the screenplay and Ram wanted to ensure that we do not hint on any religious sentiment at all, because this hi-jack had nothing to do with that. Writing the terrorists was tough!

What were the challenges penning NEERJA?
The most challenging part was a director with very high expectations from the script! Ram really pushed Saiwyn and me to do more, be more. He made sure we only put our pens down when there was really nothing else left to do.

SQ: The big challenge really was to stay true to each and every character. This incident had an irreversible impact on their lives, and so whether it was a passenger or Neerja, everyone had to be handled with care.

Do you-all believe Bollywood should highlight the stories of real people (MARY KOM, NEERJA) when we already know a bit about them?
SQ: A true story, a real person's life has a different sort of impact and viewing experience. The fact that you already know what happened and are going to watch a dramatized adaptation of the same engages the audience in a different way from a purely fictional story too. I think any moving story should be given a chance to be made into a film.

'We knew that NEERJA is in safe hands with Ram Madhvani'

Have you guys tried to fictionalize NEERJA a bit for the commercial gain of the film?
No one on this team was ever thinking of commercial gain while writing NEERJA, we just wanted to tell a moving a story.

AIRLIFT, NEERJA, MARY KOM, BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG, etc. all were real stories. Do you guys agree it is an easy formula to attain success at BO and gain critical acclaim?
SQ: I wish there was an easy formula to ensure the success of a film! Everyone works hard towards making a film; there have been instances of real stories not working also. It is a challenging industry in that sense.

Are you guys working on something fictional already?
SQ: I am already working on something fictional though I have enjoyed writing for real people immensely.

What about the future projects?
SC: Saiwyn and I have been working on a script for Mukta Arts with Subhash Ghai, it's an inspirational story of a young couple, I don't think I should say anything more at this point. I have also just finished a script for Samar Shaikh, the director of BOBBY JASOOS.

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