People told me Shabana Azmi wouldn’t do ‘Neerja’: Atul Kasbekar

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Mumbai, Feb 17 (IANS) Reputed photographer Atul Kasbekar, who makes his debut as a producer with “Neerja”, says people told him veteran actress Shabana Azmi won’t be doing the film.

“Shabana ji gave the nod for the film within a day. It was my idea to cast Shabana ji for the role, but others were not convinced as they thought she would not be ready to do the film,” said Atul.

“She is one of the finest actresses and I am just a novice in film production. Shabana ji is close to Rama Bhanot and as she came to know that I have bought the rights of the story from the family, she agreed to do it.

“Despite the low budget, she did the film. She is a true artiste and has an eagerness to do good roles. I feel these kinds of honest and sincere roles are rarely offered to actors these days,” he added.

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Shabana plays a character based on Rama Bhanot, the mother of Neerja Bhanot who sacrificed her life while saving numerous lives on a hijacked plane in 1986.

The film “Neerja” is based on this real-life incident.

As seen in the trailer and songs, the mother-daughter bond between Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi is crucial to the plot of the film.

About how Sonam came onboard, he said: “When I received the ‘Neerja’ script, we realised that Sonam’s features match a lot with Neerja Bhanot.

“Neerja was tall and did modelling so did Sonam. So I told her that I want to produce a film and she was surprised. I gave her the script to read and she was impressed with the narration. As I asked her to do the role, she said, ‘Have you gone mad!'” Kasbekar said.

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“Nevertheless, Sonam agreed to do the character and after knowing Ram Madhvani would direct the movie, she realised it would be a difficult role to portray.

“I am really thankful to Sonam for keeping faith in me as a first-time producer.”

“Neerja”, which also stars Shekhar Ravjiani, is slated to release on February 19.

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