Sonam Kapoor, who is essaying the role of Neerja Bhanot, was in for a surprise when Aamir Khan dropped by on the sets of the film Neerja.

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Directed by Ram Madhvani, Sonam plays the role of Neerja Bhanot, the daredevil flight attendant of PanAm, who lost her life trying to save the lives of passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked PanAm Flight 73 on September 5, 1986. Neerja posthumously became the youngest recipient of India’s highest civilian award for bravery, The Ashok Chakra. She was only 22 when she passed away.

Aamir Khan visits Sonam Kapoor on the sets of Neerja
Aamir Khan visits Sonam Kapoor on the sets of Neerja

Director Ram Madhvani, said, “We had over 220 featured cast who were the passengers on the plane. These were people who were cast after thousands of tests by our casting director Kanika Berry and her team. To me each and every one of these 220 were one of the most important actors on the film. Years of advertising work has taught me that they were not back ground cast. They were as important for the film as the lead cast. They not only had to act in a believable real way, but we all had to as human beings understand the responsibility of what we were doing. What did the real passengers feel? How did they go through the 16 hour ordeal of being hijacked in the plane? As a director I knew it was critical for the featured cast to get motivated to give the film everything they had emotionally. For them to believe in the film and to do justice to the memory of those who died. Neerja Bhanot (the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra award) gave her life in protecting the passengers.”

Added Ram Madhvani, “I knew that getting Aamir Khan, Boman Irani, Vidya Balan, Raju Hirani and Anil Kapoor to speak to the 220 cast would help instill in the full team the dedication and full effort that this film would require. I am forever in the debt of Aamir Khan, Boman Irani, Anil Kapoor, Raju Hirani and Vidya Balan for so readily giving their time and energy and for supporting us. I could not have asked for a better featured cast, they really gave it their all. My idea of getting the guests worked very well as the entire cast and team gave it their all through full night shoots. Not one person of the 220 people missed a single shoot day even if they were not well. I’m also very touched that Aamir Khan gave the Mahurat shot of our film.”

Presented by Fox Star Studios, Neerja is produced by Atul Kasbekar’s Bling Unplugged.

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