Director Neeraj Pandey who has just scored high success as a producer with Rustom, is getting ready for the release of Dhoni The Untold Story which is being promoted enthusiastically by Dhoni himself.
Sighs Neeraj, “It was providential. When we needed Dhoni to talk about the film at promotional campaigns he had retired from professional cricket and had time to be with us. If he was still playing I doubt he’d have been able to support the film.”
Neeraj says he wanted to show the human side of Dhoni. “Everyone already knows about his triumphs on the field. It was the man outside the cricket field who interested me. His attitude to life and success were what I was interested in.”
Neeraj was sure it was going to be Sushant Singh Rajput as Dhoni. “From the beginning I was sure of Sushant. I don’t know what it was. I had never seen any of Sushant’s films when I signed him. It was just a hunch that he was right for the role. And I was right. Sushant’s unflagging enthusiasm to get Dhoni right has given the film a sense of credibility and strength.Sushant is a very hungry actor. He played Dhoni as if he had a point to prove.”
What should Dhoni’s fans and fans of Neeraj Pandey’s cinema expect in their collaboration? “A film that tells the truth. We’ve humanized Dhoni without glorifying him unnecessarily .We didn’t want to make Dhoni larger-than-life. Whatever he achieved on the field has already made him iconic. The bio-pic will provide an insight into Dhoni’s mind.We haven’t deified him. We’ve shown him as human, yet heroic.”
Neeraj Pandey has never serenaded the expected.
“I think many factors contributed to the success of Rustom. But we never thought it would go this far. I’ve to admit the success of Rustom has surpassed all our expectations. I think the unusual plot had a lot to do with its success. Though inspired by a real incident we made sure there was enough drama and emotions in the telling of the story to keep the audience hooked.”
He admits he took a big risk with Rustom.
“It was a subject on infidelity and not too many films have been attempted on that…we were aware of that. When Tinu Suresh Desai came to us with the subject, I was sure we wanted to do it,” says Neeraj.
Neeraj describes his faith in the script of Rustom as a gut-feeling. “I’ve always gone by instinct. And the director Tinu Desai has worked with me earlier. He had assisted me on my directorial venture Special Chabbis, so I knew what he was capable of. The rest is just plain instinct. You have to take risks if you want to get the audience interested.”
Akshay Kumar’s participation clinched the matter for Neeraj. “When I had an actor of Akshay’s stature on board everything else just fell in place. I don’t think we could have made this kind of an impact without him. He persuades audiences to believe in his cinema.”
Neeraj and Akshay have collaborated on two films Special Chabbis and Baby. They are about to collaborate on a third directorial project.
“At the moment I am not in a position to say anything about our next film Crack. We have an idea. And we have a release date. Independence Day 2017.And we have the shooting dates. Yes, we shoot for Crack from the end of January to the end of March 2017. Beyond that there is nothing at the moment. We are yet to decide anything about Crack.”
It’s bound to be something unconventional. “Akshay’s collaboration with me is based on mutual trust. He will never wonder if my idea will work. I will never wonder if he would fit into my scheme of things.We know that if we are working together, there can only be one answer to our question.”
There was another film on the same real-life crime that director Ram Madhvani was collaborating with AamirKhan for.
Neeraj says he had no idea of this. “All I knew was that there were other films being made on similar lines.We never thought about who was doing what.All we were sure of was that there was a story that we wanted to tell.Rustom was a story that had to be told. ”