My mother lovingly told sonam, ‘ you are a celebrity... but my daughter was prettier than you’
Lado!’ The team was supposed to spend just half- an- hour at our place, but left at 2am after spending over five hours with us. But not before my mother lovingly told Sonam, ‘ You are a star, a celebrity. But let me tell you, my daughter was prettier than you!’ Of course, Sonam took it very sportingly and hugged her very respectfully.”
Two years of research later, the film released in cinemas. “It’s an accurate portrayal of Neerja and the hijack. It’s the ultimate ode to our sister, because of the purity of thought, approach and sincerity with which the entire film unit tackled the subject,” says Aneesh.
“The story, the screenplay, the photography, the special plane which was made… everything about the film has made our family so proud and we are very happy that it managed to eulogise Neerja.”
Aneesh’s book quickly followed the film. “Since I did not want to write a biography, I approached people who knew Neerja — her school friends and college mates and Wendy Sue Knecht, a Pan Am flight attendant who had trained Neerja.”
The 11 chapters in the book provide a glimpse of Neerja through their eyes. “It must have taken them on an emotional ride, re- living moments that were over three decades old,” says Aneesh. “I’m very grateful to them. To relive the past is not easy. Which is probably why three of her other friends never sent me their chapters even after promising to do so.
“The brief her school and college classmates got was simple — ‘ Give me a glimpse of the Neerja you knew… anecdotes, incidents… anything… of the times you spent with her… what sort of person she was… It could be 10 words, 100… 1,000… whatever… it’s up to you,’ I told them. And, no, I did not edit anything. It was their emotions, their feelings at play. How could I tamper with that?”