Nothing can beat big screen experience for hit director

Nothing can beat big screen experience for hit director

The director-producer’s short film ‘The Relationship Manager’ will be released soon

Neeraj Pandey has proved his mettle across mediums. Starting out with ad films, he went on to directing Hindi features such as ‘A Wednesday’, ‘Special 26’, ‘Baby’ and ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’. He produced films like ‘Naam Shabana’, ‘Rustom’, ‘Toilet — Ek Prem Katha’ and even one in Marathi called ‘Taryanche Bait’, which picked up awards. He even has one short film and a successful Hotstar web series, ‘Special Ops’, to his credit.

Another short film called ‘The Relationship Manager, an Ajay Devgn-starring historical titled ‘Chanakya’ and at least one more season of ‘Special Ops’ in the works.

As Neeraj puts it, “Each subject calls for a specific medium. People are overreacting to some films releasing directly on streaming platforms. Cinema is too big to need protection from a handful of people. It was there before and it will be there forever. After all, nothing can compensate for a community-viewing experience with a big screen and sound, can it?”

Experimentation has always been Neeraj’s game: his work has spanned a romantic thriller, a patriotic thriller, a heist story, an espionage drama and a sports biopic.

He has tried black comedy and social dramas on education and toilets for women. Asked how the work on the Devgn-starring historical is moving, he says, “We have been progressing very slowly on the script after April. The work for ‘Special Ops’ is also going on, so I cannot even say what will start next.

‘The Relationship Manager’, which streams July 18 on YouTube and is directed by my assistant, Falguni Thakore, is in an interesting new genre.”

Asked whether he has become a master of the espionage genre with works like ‘A Wednesday!’, ‘Baby’, ‘Naam Shabana’, ‘Rustom’,  Special Ops’ and ‘Aiyaary’, he says laughing, “It’s up to your guys to classify me.” But adds, “But as my work shows that I like to take up what excites me, after a consensus with my partner Shital Bhatia of Friday Film Works.”

‘Aiyaary’ is one of the failures of his career. Asked whether the long and convoluted film would have worked better as a series, he says, “It’s all hypothetical now. I had wanted to experiment with its storytelling. And OTT wasn’t really significant then. But there is great freedom in narrating the story in your way on OTT.

It is the medium of the future, where you watch something at your time, place and pace. And people appreciate the detailing in ‘Special Ops’. The budgets are as good as in cinema.”

And how does he decide which film to leave at writing and producing and which to go on to direct? “Two things: my gut feeling and my schedules decide that,” he says. And why does he repeat actors? Names such as Manoj Bajpayee, Sajjad Delafrooz, Divya Dutta and even Akshay Kumar are staples of a Neeraj Pandey production.

“Now, that’s not a fault, is it?” he hits back in jest. “I do not know why they all like me. For me, what matters is that they all have no frills or pretension. You get what you see. Period.”

After four films together, is anything on the anvil with Akshay Kumar? “No, not even a fallout, as people think!” he laughs.