My mother lov­ingly told sonam, ‘ you are a celebrity... but my daugh­ter was pret­tier than you’

WKND - - Real Life -

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?”

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