Sonam Kapoor will be seen playing the role of Neerja Bhanot, the senior flight attendant for Pan Am flight, who was murdered while saving passengers from terrorists on board, who had hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on 5th September,1986 in Ram Madhvani's biopic 'Neerja'.
As the film's release date inches closer the actress reveals more about this movie, how it changed her and many other things.
Q. When we talk about Neerja Bhanot a lot of people always consider the entire hijack situation and how she handled it very bravely. But in her personal life she had a failed marriage. Does the film have scenes from that part of her life too?
For that you need to see the film. One thing that Neerja learnt in her life was to stand up for herself. Everything that happened in her life was leading her up to the hijack. So the situation what happened to her, prepared her to be a saviour. Whether it was her upbringing or her personality or marriage she was very kind and compassionate.
Q. So the film is 100% based on true events?
There is nothing in the film that is not true. We have done so much research and there is so much there in the film. This girl was so extraordinary.
Q. How did you prepare yourself for the movie?
I don't know. I worked really hard but you are never prepared for what happens on sets. Ram made me watch all those hijack films. I was like how do you create this realism. We thought about it and he came up with an incredible and crazy idea of recreating every moment in the film. So if Neerja was in the plane for 17 hours we would shoot every minute of 17 hours and encapsulate it into 1 and half hours. There were five-six things which happened in that flight i.e the key moments which were there in the scripts. But we decided to replay the whole thing. So I went through everything. First thing what Ram did was to create the whole timeline of what happened. There was a case that was happening against those terrorists in America. We went through all those case files and spoke to some witnesses to get a minute-by-minute detail about what happened that day. That research took around a year. I by-hearted everything. The cabin crew didn't meet the passengers and the passengers didn't meet the terrorists. Everybody did their workshops on their own. So we had to learn those lines of 16 hours by heart. So it was like 16 hours play everyday for us for 15 days. 'Neerja' has the largest feature cast. There is nobody an extra..everybody is an actor. While shooting for a scene I got hurt so badly on my face. But I couldn't call for a cut. My lip was cut and bleeding and I had to continue with that.
Q. What was the toughest part for you while playing Neerja?
The toughest part for me was when I finished shooting on the 14th day on that set. And as I said on the trailer launch that I can't believe that I could get out of the plane when she didn't.
Q. Do you think that this is your toughest role?
I don't know. I think that with every film I try to do something different. I don't try to repeat myself. The reason why I am so passionate about this project is because Neerja Bhanot became my hero. Not the fact that I am going to get accolades or awards. For me awards don't matter. I discovered my hero through this film. Not because she saved many lives, what impacted me most was the fact that she was an ordinary girl. She wasn't an athlete or singer or actress. She wasn't a queen like Rani Laxmibai. The only thing that made her do this extraordinary task of saving people was her spirit and personality of trying to do the right thing.
Q. You did 'Khoobsurat' then 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo' and now this film. Do you call it your golden phase?
I took a year before I decided to do 'Ranjhnaa'. After that I took a year to think about what I wanted to do because I wasn't happy with the way my life was going. I figured out three things- that I am too honest for my own good, I can't play games or be a part of a rat-race. Secondly I am not interested in being the biggest superstar of this country, queen-bie and all of that nonsense. Thirdly I need to be happy and honest when I go to work in the morning because otherwise I do a shit job. So I can't conform to what people think is the right thing to do. So it took me six months to find a film like 'Ranjhnaa'. It's not like I am doing films to be in a golden phase or to be the no.1 actress of this country. I feel that the only reason why we are around is to evolve as people and as an artist. I was like I need to stop being in the race because I don't have that personality of a person like that. So I rather just carve my own way.
Q. You said that playing all these characters have been creatively satisfying for you. But when you play a real-life unsung hero like Neerja, so does that change you from within as a person?
Every character that I do is for me to evolve. I did 'Ranjhnaa' because it would make me creatively a better actor. I did 'Khoobsurat' because I needed to remind myself of what a love in life is all about. I did 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo' because I wanted to work with Sooraj Ji and Salman. Also I felt that it would give legs to film like 'Neerja'. So I did 'Neerja' not because it was a role of life-time. I feel like we are living in dark times right now. I am not saying that people are doing wrong things but they ain't even doing right things. People are just sitting on the fence. We are just so scared of doing anything. And for me that's a wrong thing to do.
Q. Has 'Neerja' made you a stronger person both emotionally and mentally?
I remember telling a journalist that I am going to become ridiculously diplomatic and not giving opinion on anything. Because there is too much hate and negativity. If you are honest and want to do the right thing, people just pull you down and you can't survive. It's the survival of the fittest and the fittest are not very nice. And I was like maybe I should stop saying things. As soon as I made that decision the script of 'Neerja' came to me. After I read the script I was like I can't believe that I had lost my way and was thinking of becoming this person. I was like I have so much to be grateful for. It's was not like whether 'Neerja' was the best thing that happened to me emotionally or creatively. But it reminded me of a person that I had started off.