Ranveer Singh and Naezy
"I am feeling blessed," says rapper Naezy. His rags-to-riches story has been widely reported, and recently, got Bollywood interested. Naezy aka Naved Shaikh is a gully rapper from a Kurla slum on whom Zoya Akhtar's next project is based.
"I have been working on this project for the past 18 months. Zoya first heard of me while she was editing Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) and saw the video of my song, Aafat. She was surprised that Mumbai slums have so much talent. Our first meeting was at Blue Frog in Lower Parel (shut since last August) where we were performing for MTV Indies (off air since last September). A common friend, Ankur Tiwari, arranged a few more meetings," he reveals.
Zoya then happened to watch a documentary titled Bombay 70 based on Naezy and decided to make a film on him, he says, adding, "Zoya also met the documentary's director to discuss the basic plot. She and I had heart-to-heart chats on my journey; she wanted to crack the ambience of my slum. I was shocked when Zoya came visiting, because she makes movies about rich people (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhakadne Do). She also met my friends to understand my background."
Though Naezy is yet to read the script's final draft, he has daunting tasks ahead of him. Zoya, he says, wants him to pen dialogues and train Ranveer to get the body language and diction right. "The dialogues are in Hindi and English, but once we are on board, we will help turn it the way we speak. She also intends to retain some of my original tracks in the film. Ankur will supervise the music."
The 25-year-old has met Ranveer quite a few times and is glad that the actor has promoted him on multiple platforms. "I like the guy. We worked together for a song in Hey Bro (2015). He is a versatile actor and I have no doubts that he can effortlessly play an emperor in Padmavati and a rapper in this film."
He admits he was perturbed about lending his story to the big screen. "I didn't want the film to become a dramatic mess. I shared my worries with Zoya and she explained that there is bound to be some fiction in the narrative. [But] I am certain this film will change the way hip-hop is perceived in India. Here, it has a negative image because of mainstream artistes. Originally, it isn't about passing lewd comments at women. My focus is on bringing about a change in society and mindsets."
As a parting shot, he says the film is only the beginning. "I have my own battles to fight —convincing parents to pursue this art. But, I know I have found my calling."