Published On: Fri, Feb 26th, 2016

Audiences ready to back great stories like ‘Neerja’, says co-producer

The eclectic taste of the film-going audience in India today has widened the scope for all kinds of films, including realistic cinema, says celebrated photographer Atul Kasbekar, who has stepped into movie production with “Neerja”, which tells a powerful real life story of Neerja Bhanot, an airhostess who lost her life while saving others on a hijacked plane.

“I think people are ready for all kinds of cinema now, which is much better than what it was like 10 years ago. The audience and studios today are ready to back a great story. Neerja Bhanot’s story is a great story,” Kasbekar, the co-producer of the film, told IANS.

Neerja Bhanot, all of 22, had saved a number of passengers on board hijacked Pan Am flight 73 in 1986. In her biopic, Sonam Kapoor plays the courageous girl and has been lauded for her effective act.

Kasbekar said Neerja’s family kept saying ‘no’ to people who wanted to make a biopic on her life since last 30 years. However, they felt that Ram Madhvani, the director of “Neerja”, would do justice to her story without twisting and turning it.

Asked whether Neerja’s family demanded any compensation for her biopic, Kasbekar said: “No. The only thing they wanted was Neerja’s respect and dignity to be kept alive. It was a great responsibility in our hand that in no way we can let them down. I’m really happy that we have managed to do that.

“We took the rights (of the story) from them (Neerja’s family) for the film. We were really grateful for that. They declined to give it for the last 30 years to many people. But thankfully they allowed us to make this film.

“There was no interference from their side in the making of the movie. We shared the final script with them and they said that they are really happy that there was no deviation from what we had shown them,” Kasbekar added.

Over six months went into research for the film.

“The writers not only had conversations with her brothers, but also the survived passengers, her classmates, other family members, books and periodical written on the hijack, from the court cases that were happened later and so on,” he said.

Made on a budget of around Rs.21 crore, including marketing costs, “Neerja” released on February 19 and has already minted over Rs.32 crore.

“I’m very grateful. It’s quite unbelievable what has happened so far. What has happened is that it has started conversations in a lot of cases,” Kasbekar said.

Interestingly, after “Neerja”, Kasbekar is again collaborating with Madhvani for another project.

“I was actually working on a comedy. It’s an original idea that I had and Ram liked the idea a lot. So we are developing it. As soon as the scripting is done, we will be more clear to talk about it.”

“We (Bling Entertainment) have been working on three four other movies. We are working on one musical. Then we are working on one remake from Europe and also we have a comedy. One out of it is with Ram,” he said.