Neeraj Pandey is open to Special Ops sequel with or without Himmat Singh: ‘The first chapter is over for sure’
Creator and co-writer Neeraj Pandey has said there is a thought to make a franchise out of Special Ops but the first chapter of the story is definitely over.Updated: Mar 30, 2020 16:43 IST
Neeraj Pandey’s life is on pause, just like millions across the globe as we fight a virus. One would think that our lives in lockdown are a far cry from what the creator-producer-director, with expertise in desi espionage (A Wednesday, Baby, Special 26 and MS Dhoni An Untold Story), is used to.
Pandey would disagree. He calls the lockdown “a good pause”, going on to assert that “the nature of our job is such that it is not very difficult to adjust to this.” Come to think of it, Pandey’s heroes work best when they are quietly ruminating -- whether it is the resolute Himmat Singh of Special Ops, who goes after a terrorist many would say is a figment of imagination, or ex-Indian skipper MS Dhoni sitting on an empty platform as he decided the course of his career and perhaps Indian cricket.
It is Himmat who interests us today. The latest spy, who has entered the crowded field that is espionage dramas on Indian OTTs, is perhaps also the least flashy of the lot. Bar one chase sequence, Kay Kay Menon’s Himmat Singh rarely breaks into action, plying his trade through instructions given on mobiles instead.
To thresh out Special Ops, Pandey fell back on his favourite method – pick up a real-life incident and make it his hero’s lifework that justice is delivered. In Special Ops, he picks up 2001’s Parliament Attack and adds a shadowy mastermind who not only pulled the strings in New Delhi at the start of this century but for every major terror attack on Indian soil since then; we even have an Ajmal Kasab interrogation scene! Was Pandey ever wary that he was entering a sensitive zone there? “You have to tread carefully. As a storyteller you don’t want to be biased or wrong on any count, and that has been the intention from my first film till now. The intent is always well placed,” he says.
He goes on to say that he heard the theory about the involvement of a sixth terrorist in the 2001 attack years ago. “There is a theory to that effect, and I heard it when we were working on earlier project years ago. When I spoke to people about it, most denied it, others said they have heard about it. So that became the base of everything that is in the series.”
What is he guided by when he mixes fact and fiction? “The narrative,” he answers, “It will tell you how to go about your job. Starting point for me is the tenacity of one man – Himmat -- over 19-20 years and it is a beautiful lens. People can take away whatever they want but primarily for me it is Himmat’s outlook of the world, people around him and the situations. Once you have thought about starting point in right manner, rest all falls in place and that’s what happened for Special Ops also.”
He goes on to say that he “consciously chose” the two decades in Indian history that includes the Parliament attack, Babri Masjid demolition, Muzaffarnagar riots and the 26/11 terror attacks as it gave him a “fantastically long timeline and put certain milestones so that people could relate to the journey of Himmat Singh”.
Special Ops ended with a climax and not a cliffhanger, a refreshing change from what has become the norm these days. But what does that bode for a sequel? “Right from the beginning, there was always this thought that we want to create a potential franchise. We felt that if Special Ops is liked and loved, we should be looking at the possibility of taking this forward. But we were clear that this story needed to end here, the first chapter is over for sure,” he says.
Given the format and content, it is easy to get jingoistic and show radicalisation but Pandey is sure that they have sidestepped both in Special Ops. “It has always been that tone right from my first film that patriotism doesn’t have to be jingoistic; it can be a quiet resolve too. It has been the belief through all my work, especially when it comes to this genre,” he says.
Like his heroes, Pandey also believes quiet resolve and silence as golden. “People have stopped respecting other’s opinions. We have to understand that everyone is entitled to their opinions and listening is as important as it is to vocalise your thoughts. There can be three stances to each position – positive, negative and neutral. We need that silence and sanity now,” is his response.