Meenal Baghel, author of Death In Mumbai based on the Neeraj Grover murder case, reveals why Not A Love Story is more fiction than fact
Why did you pick the Neeraj Grover murder for your book?
In journalism, we’re always in a hurry. This was an opportunity to explore something I wanted to think about deeply. Two things drew me to the story — the relationship between men and women, and being a film buff, I wanted to do a slightly different take on a struggler’s story.
What also got me interested, apart from the three characters — Neeraj Grover, Maria Susairaj and Emile Jerome — was this whole world of Oshiwara, Andheri, where many come and try their luck. In some way, they are representative of the ambition of the young in the rest of the country.
Ram Gopal Varma’s Not A Love Story followed soon after the actual murder. How close was it to the truth?
The film is very different from what really transpired. Ramu is a chapter in my book and he has taken the idea and spun his own take. Neeraj (Ashish, played by Ajay Gehi) in the movie is an incidental character. From what I found out about him, it may have called for a more nuanced portrayal. Emile’s character (Robin, played by Deepak Dobhriyal) is psychotic, obsessed and isn’t a naval officer. I don’t think a comparison is entirely valid. My book is purely journalistic. Ramu has cleverly taken a lot of the factors that titillate, and then taken the safe way out by changing the identities. Emile is not like that at all. He is an enormously dignified man, one of very few words, very handsome and cold. He was not cooperative.
You wrote of how Maria was confident during her interrogation session with the police. That was very different from the film too.
Maria was interesting. I was very surprised by how my feelings towards her changed. She had been portrayed as this villain, but she didn’t do the killing. Neeraj’s parents hold her entirely responsible. But when I met her, I realised it’s not as simple as that. She’s a complex woman. I did feel a lot of empathy for her, which I was surprised by.
Neeraj was the victim and nobody deserves to die the way he did, but nobody is just a goody-two-shoes, or a villain or cold-blooded killer. There are deeper forces in their personality.
Yet, no one will really know the truth.
Yes, no matter how many books and films are written, no one knows what happened in that room. There are no revelations to be made in this book.
Maybe now a filmmaker can read your book to portray the story right?
People are wary of dealing with controversial subjects in India. But I’d love for it to be. I was told that there were some 20 films that had been registered on Neeraj’s death. Another starring the actor, Moon Das, whose boyfriend had driven down from Orissa to kill her mother and uncle, was to be made. Moon was to play Maria, but that didn’t take off.