By Ankit Sinha
NEW DELHI– Veteran actor Shabana Azmi, whose film “Neerja” is releasing this month, believes that it is important for the film industries in India and Pakistan to have more “co-productions” to create a “spirit of collaboration”.
“I think what is required is that we should make many more joint co-productions because that will enlarge our audience all over the world… Then it is a non-competitive thing. Sports like cricket create a spirit of competition, but what we need is a spirit of collaboration. I think that’s what we need,” Shabana told IANS in a telephonic interview.
Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, the original film revolves around the story of a film director who has an extra-marital affair with a woman. He leaves his wife who then goes searching for her real identity.
Would the “Fire” actress like to act in a Pakistani film?
“Not in itself… If I like the script then I will be happy to work in a film even in Timbuktu, but the basic requirement is that it should be a challenging script,” the 65-year-old said.
Shabana, who has essayed the role of Rama Bhanot, the mother of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot who died in a hijacked plane while saving the lives of passengers, in “Neerja”, says that the film “essentially has two arcs”.
“One is of Neerja, an ordinary girl, who is put into an extraordinary situation and is able to rise above her fear to do an act of great courage including giving up her life,” she said.
“Her mother is a conventional mother who is concerned about whether her daughter has eaten food or not or she is not working too hard, who goes through the awful shock of losing her child and is able to rise above her own personal loss to celebrate the heroism that her daughter was capable of,” she added.
As far as the filming is concerned, Shabana mentioned director Ram Madhvani’s penchant for theatre-esque long shots.
“The whole process of how we did the film was different because Ram Madhvani likes to take very long shots, so you have to be prepared with your lines. It was just like theatre, because Ram as a director is always looking for the unpredictable, he likes simultaneous action, so the process itself was different,” the actor shared.
Would the story of Neerja Bhanot inspire young Indian women to rise above their situation?
“The important thing is that Neerja wasn’t a hero to begin with. She was an ordinary girl who was placed in an extraordinary situation where she was able to overcome her fear to do an act of bravery. I think films are a big platform to showcase positive images of women and it helps to have these images because they are coming from everyday life,” Shabana said.
Neerja was a Pan Am chief purser who was gunned down by terrorists when a flight in Karachi was hijacked in 1986. Her courage is being celebrated with the biopic.