I want to glorify unsung heroes through my writing – Saiwyn
He beautifully captured the journey of India’s boxing legend Mary Kom. Known for his compelling storytelling and strong women characters, writer Saiwyn Quadras has carved a unique space for himself. As his second film Neerja releases today, the man who has a way with words gives us a sneak peak into the story.
What inspired you to write about Neerja Bhanot’s story?
I had read an article about her around five years ago but at that time I had no idea that I would actually write a story or screenplay for this. While shooting for Mary Kom I was actually thinking about what my next story could be and this idea popped into my head. I tried to pull out all that I could remember about the article and then looked it up online. When I saw Neerja’s picture I could only imagine Sonam Kapoor due to their uncanny resemblance. And fortunately she loved the story and agreed to do it. I knew Shanti Sivaram (Producer) and pitched the story to her and she then took it to Atul (Kasbekar) and others. So it all fell into place.
You seem to have an affinity towards strong women-oriented stories. What draws you to them?
On a personal front, I like strong women who I can look up to, someone who has beaten the odds and struggled to achieve what she wants. Also women-oriented stories are now gaining popularity both with viewers and filmmakers. As a writer I also want to glorify people like Mary Kom and Neerja, the unsung heroes that they are and want to bring them to the world. I feel if my writing can contribute to take these forgotten people to the world, I have done my job. And I am glad that I have garnered the right kind of support and found the right people in doing so.
You have worked with first-time directors like Omung Kumar and now Ram Madhvani. How easy or difficult is it working with debutants?
It was indeed a pleasure to work with Ram Madhvani (Director). He is one of the few directors that all the super stars also want to work with. And I was not really getting a flurry of offers so I had to open my own paths. The joy of working with first-time directors is that they share the same passion for storytelling and it supersedes everything else. It automatically nullifies all the ‘taam jhaam’. The passion to tell a story is the overriding thought and the highest of all. And it is awesome because everyone has the same energy and motivation.
What are the challenges of working on such a film that is inspired by a person, but is not a biopic? What was the kind of research that you did?
Ram came on board at the story level. Ram brought in a lot of detail due to his advertising background. We researched extensively to make sure that we were not depicting anything that we weren’t supposed to, to get the facts right and be as close to reality as possible. But this was in no way an additional burden; it was a part of the process. And I believe it is important for a fictional story since the film has to relate to the people. This was also Shanti’s first film with Fox Star Studios and maybe, the story was so compelling that everyone was quickly convinced. The filmmaking process was challenging, yes, but that too was exciting as Ram actually brought in a lot of new styles to it. So we never felt that we were not enjoying the process.
Did you have to bear anything specifically in mind for this story?
As far as the story was concerned, the family was involved since the inception of the film’s idea. Ram was very particular about the sensitivity and we made sure that we did not exploit our creative license. And we were always conscious not to hurt anybody’s sentiment. We even ran the final draft by the Bhanot brothers and they did not point out even a single change. The only challenge as a writer for me was to create the incidences that happened behind the curtains, since we do not have all the information about it. No one exactly knows what happened.
What advice would you give to writers that wish to write about real life stories and people?
While writing any story, one must try to make it as real as possible. It always makes sense to give it a humane touch from our own lives thus enabling people to associate with it. The moment people can find themselves or someone they know in one of your characters, you as a writer have done your bit. So try to get the essence right, where the hero actually comes out like a hero in the film.