In an EXCLUSIVE interview, the ace photographer talks about Sonam Kapoor, Neerja and his first experience as a producer...
As Sonam Kapoor's Neerja releases, people will come to know about how a fearless air hostess - Neerja Bhanot saved the lives of 359 passengers from a hijacked plane. The brave heart lost her life, but her memory remains. So before the film releases we spoke to the first time producer Atul Kasbekar who reveals about the film, working with Sonam Kapoor, why he chose to take up such a risky subject and much more. Here are a few excerpts from the EXCLUSIVE video interview:
What made you choose Sonam Kapoor for Neerja and how supportive was she for the film?
We ran the seven-page rough script through Sonam and told her that we are planning to make this movie, we (Bling) are thinking of turning producers with this film and she said 'You are mad.' We still told her to read the script and she read it and told that it is great. We told her that we wanted her to act in it and that's when she said, 'You are completely mad!' She went on to ask who the director was and we told her that there is guy who hasn't done a Hindi film before, his name is Ram Madhvani, he is a brilliant ad film maker and that's when she said, 'what is wrong with you? You want to take a difficult subject, you want to make a female oriented film and you want to take a first time director? Any other clever ways to commit suicide?'
But any aspect of her acting that prompted you to cast Sonam?
I don't think Sonam Kapoor has received the credit she deserves. It was really a list of one. We would have gone to somebody else if Sonam had said no. She is one of our clients (Bling) and she looks lot like Neerja, she is like Punjabi and all the nuisances of the family were working very well. So I told her to mull over it and if it appeals to you, we will work together.
So do you think after Neerja, Sonam will receive the credit she deserves?
In the making videos, we saw that the whole plane was made from scratch. This is a producer's nightmare, so when Ram Madhvani told you about the plan, what was your first reaction?
I was little bit nervous about it (creating the whole plane from scratch). But Ram had this idea that if you had to build a palace, you have to build a palace, then we can argue about the detailing and the cost, which is aesthetics, time, manual labour and money. If you sort all those out then you can do it. What was more important for him was the art part of it, the human interactions and emotions. The rest of it, he said, 'Vo hojayega (That will happen).' To capture the nuisances of the character and to build a strong equation between two people and have a background of 250 passengers not over-reacting like extras do and so we never referred them as extras also, we called them a featured cast. So to make a plane, we had had to make a plane. It was very difficult because the 1986 jumbo jet had a different configuration. We recreated the plane from a manual to the last rivet and we are proud of it. If you have the resource, you can make a plane.
We have seen how films like Bajirao Mastani and even Airlift being criticised coz they had failed to highlight some crucial facts, but you have involved the family. Did they approve everything in the first go or how was it?
I cannot tell you how grateful I am by the way Akhil and Aneesh Bhanot, Neerja's brothers have handled this. I don't think people in my own family will give me this much trust and faith, how much they did. They were like, 'Yaar, tu kar de apni picture (Friend, you make your film). Don't worry.' Contractually, we had it written that the family would come and read the script and sign it off, which they did but there was nothing like ye change karo (change this). There was an incredible trust and faith between both ends and that gives us an incredible amount of responsibility to make sure we did not let them down.
Neerja has garnered a good response from the industry, what's the best compliment you've received till now?
Two people, said something similar and that was, 'In the times to come, Neerja will be seen as a very important movie.'
Shahid Kapoor is a good friend and now that you have ventured into production, do you plan to do a film with him?
We actually are planning four or five movies. But it is at a point where we are working on the script to make it such that we are thrilled to bits and then take it to an actor. Each has a director attached to it and all of them are different genres and none of them are biopics.
Check out more interesting facts and the full EXCLUSIVE interview with Atul Kasbekar in the video below:
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