Judging by the gripping trailers for upcoming aviation thriller Runway 34, starring Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan and Rakul Preet Singh in lead roles, it looks like cinema audiences here in the UAE can expect some edge-of-the-seat action coupled with intense courtroom drama.
Based on an actual incident from 2015, Runway 34 revolves around a flight that embarks on a mysterious trajectory after take-off. The pilots’ (Captain Vikrant Khanna and Tanya Albuquerque, played by Ajay and Rakul) decisions come under scrutiny from an investigating officer (Narayan Vedant, played by Amitabh Bachchan), resulting in a courtroom battle for the truth.
While the trailers keep you hooked, not much of the story is given away in either, which is the USP of any good thriller; Rakul Preet Singh (De De Pyaar De, Jaya Janaki Nayaka) in a Zoom conversation with City Times, expresses similar sentiments.
“The first trailer shows the world of Runway 34 and then slowly, closer to the release date, we sort of give you an insight into what’s really happening (in the second trailer). The two sides of the coin, the difficulty of decision making.”
Rakul said while Runway 34 is based on a real-life incident, “of course we have added stuff to make it like a film.”
Calling it a “thriller and a very interesting story,” she added, “I can’t divulge much about the plot and the twist; all I can say is that there are a lot of difficult decisions that pilots take in times of panic situations.
“And this film is about one of those journeys; the turbulence in the flight and the on-ground turbulence in their lives because of what happened in that one day. The rest is for people to see on April 29!”
Portraying a female aviator in Runway 34, has she gained much insight into the world of flying and the lives of pilots?
“Of course! I think more than the insight, a sense of pride for all pilots. I realised while we were shooting the film, we’ve never really given it a thought — that we fly all the time and our lives are in the hands of the pilots, and we don’t even think about how difficult the job is.”
She also realised the extent of pressure pilots face when the flight encounters turbulence.
“They are responsible for the lives of all the passengers on board; it is a huge deal. If one decision goes wrong, everything else can go wrong. So I think it’s a very difficult task and hats’ off to all the pilots around the world who do this.”
Inspired by Ajay Devgn
Ajay Devgn who has made a mark in diverse roles since his Bollywood debut in 1991’s Phool Aur Kaante, took on double responsibilities in Runway 34 — that of lead actor, as well as director.
Rakul had earlier worked with Ajay in the 2019 romantic comedy De De Pyaar De.
“It was very different this time around because De De Pyaar De was a very light-hearted, fun film… so we could joke around and it was chemistry-based. But in Runway 34, he was also the director, so it was much tougher for him as well as us because we couldn’t joke around on set obviously. There was no time!”
She was all praise for Ajay’s work ethic and talent, both as an actor and director.
“To see Ajay don multiple hats so effortlessly was something which I was completely in awe of. Runway 34 was a very difficult film to shoot…. to create that atmosphere, to create that panic, that fear in a small cockpit, to create turbulence, the use of multiple cameras, different kind of shots... There were seven cameras in that cockpit, and 11-13 cameras in the courtroom. So he understood that it was difficult for an actor to recreate the same thing again and again when it’s not real. That’s something I saw for the first time, in all the films that I have done — technically making everything so perfect; I’ve never seen such brilliant use of multiple cameras.
“It was very different to see him so focused; I mean he’s always focused, but here it required a lot from him because he’s also acting. So he would set up the shot, come into the shot as an actor, then go as a director and check everyone’s performance, check his own performance, check if the camera is working right or not! I asked him, how are you doing this? He said, ‘I like it, this is what gives me a kick!’ So he loves those challenges and I think that’s what pushes him. It’s very inspiring to see someone wanting more, after so many years in the industry.”
And is she inspired by the Runway 34 experience and watching Ajay as a director to perhaps pursue film direction someday?
“I love acting but I don’t see myself as a director. Whether I will produce (films), I don’t know! Because I think I know the kind of stories I would want to tell or make, but direction is a completely different ballgame and I don’t think I am cut out for that.”
A dream come true
Runway 34 boasts an impressive cast including veteran star Amitabh Bachchan. Describing the legendary actor as “too nice”, Rakul said of her many scenes with him, “There is this whole courtroom drama that happens between Ajay, myself and Amitabh. It’s a dream come true for any actor, you know? I can’t express how happy I am to have an opportunity to share his energy, to share screen space.
“I mean, it’s Amitabh Bachchan! When you become an actor you want to first meet him and then you want to just work with him; ek film mil jaye… and for me, Runway 34 is that! To learn from his brilliance, to learn from his dedication to his craft even today… he’s just amazing!”
Rakul recently teamed up with John Abraham for Attack: Part 1 which recently played in cinemas in the UAE. How does she feel, post pandemic, to have films release on the big screen again?
“It feels great! I mean, we all work for the big screen. Of course, digital is a great space but I think our first love is the 70 mm film. It’s just amazing that people are getting back to their normal lives; they’re going to the theatres. We hope they keep doing that and appreciating films.”
She gave a shout out to her UAE fans. “Thank you for giving me all the love that I’ve received so far; this year is very important and very special because Attack just released and (I have) five more films. I just hope that I’m able to deliver what each one of you expects from me.”
Rakul on juggling South and Hindi cinema
You’re an actress who successfully juggles Telugu, Tamil and Hindi roles. How much of a challenge is that and with the success of pan-Indian films like Baahubali and RRR, do you hope cinema becomes more integrated in the future?
You can’t be doing as many films in every industry because there are only 365 days in a year. When I was working only in Telugu (cinema), I was doing about four or five films a year. And then Tamil happened, and it sort of split into two-three films. And then when Hindi happened, it was like, one each. The last two years have been more Hindi (cinema), because I shot for 6-7 films.
It does become very difficult to juggle because both industries work very differently when it comes to specifically assigning dates for a project. Here in Hindi we take bulk dates, say three months, for one film. But in Telugu or in the South, it’s generally scattered. So you have to decide what is your main area of play, which for me right now is this new space that I am enjoying.
Coming to the second part where cinema has become integrated and the boundaries have blurred, I think it’s amazing. If films from every region start coming together we can create some world-class cinema because of such rich culture and cinematic history. So I think it’s beautiful if all the industries come together and create Indian cinema; I like that word better than pan-Indian. There’s nothing better than seeing every film flourish.
The film is set to release in November
Sean Connery first played the fictional spy created by author Ian Fleming. He was followed by George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and, finally, Daniel Craig
US actor Anthony Rapp, who turns 51 this month, accused the disgraced Hollywood star of assault when he was 14
The film primarily focuses on Viola Davis’ character General Nanisca, leader of the all-female group of warriors
The film releases September 30 in the UAE