After delivering acclaimed and commercially successful films like MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Baby, Rustom, and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Neeraj Pandey ventured into OTT with an action espionage thriller web series Special Ops, which became an instant hit with the audience, followed by Special Ops 1.5: The Himmat Story. He has now come up with yet another promising web series Bandon Mein Tha Dum, which will stream on Voot Select from June 16. It is a four-part docu-series on the Indian cricket team’s magnificent win of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Gabba.
Pandey is tied up with multiple projects till the end of 2023. He is producing and writing one of the most highly anticipated movies Vikram Vedha, which stars Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan. Vikram Vedha is the Hindi remake of the Tamil film of the same name. The original movie starred R Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi. Besides this, Pandey has Special Ops 2 and an untitled film that will go on floors soon.
In this interaction, Pandey spoke about what appealed to him to take on the sports documentary series, his views on the growing trend of remaking South movies in Bollywood, and whether South cinema is slowly becoming a threat to the Hindi film industry. Excerpts from the interview:
This is your second project which has cricket as a central subject after MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Are you fascinated by the amalgamation of sports and cinema?
It’s actually third. After the MS Dhoni biopic, we did Kaun Pravin Tambe?’. Also, the fascination stems from real-life dramas, and in this case cricket and drama in the face of all adversity.
What exactly made you direct this web series- was it the love for cricket or you were personally affected by the whole incident?
It was a milestone. And nothing like this had happened earlier in the history of world cricket. That was the reason we felt very strongly that this series needs to be documented with players from both India and Australia for posterity.
How did all the cricketers involved in the project react when you approached them for this? Did you know anyone of them before?
No, we didn’t know them at all. In fact, when we approached them we first had a series of video calls where we tried to make them understand the nature of the documentary that we wanted to make. Once they understood what we were up to then the road ahead became easy.
Of late, you have been giving your time to your OTT projects. But on the film front, you are currently looking more into the production aspect. Why is that?
We’ll be going shortly on the floor with our film with me as a director. It is slated for a mid-year release next year. We feel that both the mediums are thriving and we are going to work with equal seriousness in both formats.
You have given us some of the most classic original Hindi films from A Wednesday to Baby and Special 26. But your upcoming production Vikram Vedha is a South remake. Bollywood has often been criticised for remaking films. Were you at all hesitant about adapting it for a Hindi remake?
Not at all. Our movies have been remade down south too. We see no problem with adaptations as long as there is a bigger audience waiting to see these films.
The Hindi film industry is going through a tough phase as many big-ticket films have not worked of late. Whereas, south movies are continuing to break several records at the box office. Are you at all worried as a producer?
No, it’s a phase of transition and a course correction in terms of the kind of content that we were making. In the aftermath of the pandemic audiences all over have been updated with content from all over the world and hence we have to be more diligent in terms of choosing our stories.
When can we expect Special Ops 2?
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