Writer Vipul K Rawal, who finally struck gold with Rustom, got in several personal experiences of being a former Naval officer while scripting the Akshay Kumar starrer
I was born in Surendranagar in Gujarat and we then moved to Vapi when was I was five years old. After schooling, since I had no interest in academics, I joined the Indian Navy as a sailor. After my basic training, I was posted on board the missile frigate INS Gomati. I was part of the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka. I always had a penchant for reading and writing and after a point, I thought I should take up writing as a career.
The first story I wrote was that of a hockey player who at the age of 17 is known as the ‘Tendulkar of Hockey’ and by 25 he is a washed-up drunk. I must have narrated this story to more than 15 production houses and directors but each one rejected it, saying films like these don’t work.
Since I have always admired the work of Nagesh Kukunoor, who makes different cinema, I mailed that story and a few others to him. We corresponded for a few months before he mentioned that he was not interested in the stories. So I moved on.
Then, to my utter disbelief, when I saw the trailers of Iqbal, I realised there was an uncanny similarity between it and my story, which I had sent to Kukunoor. I confronted him through the media before which I had assembled all the proof I needed. However, officially I still didn’t get credit. But because I had mailed the proof to every production house and media house, Iqbal’s story is attributed to me on several platforms.
Ahead Of Times
I had sold a very interesting script to John Mathew Matthan of Sarfarosh fame. It was a hilarious script about a sperm donor. This was more than six years before Vicky Donor was even conceived. John made that film with Himesh Reshammiya in the lead. T-Series was the producer. But halfway into the project, something went wrong between Himesh and Bhushan Kumar and the project was abandoned.
Story behind Rustom
In 2012, I narrated a story to Abbas-Mustan, who liked it and decided to make it. We then narrated the story to John Abraham and he loved it. I was very excited, once again, because a script I had worked on for more than five years was finally being made. However, John and the producers of the project, Shemaroo, did not see eye-to-eye on the terms and the project was put on hold. It was the story of Rustom.
I decided not to get bogged down and started working on something else. But after a few months, I happened to meet John Abraham’s partner Sheel Kumar and I asked him if they would be interested in producing Rustom. They had already had produced Vicky Donor and Madras Cafe. They agreed and I sold the script to John Abraham Entertainment. The excitement didn’t last long because, after a few months, they decided to postpone the project for a while.
Finally, Rustom Happening
In the meantime, I was introduced to Tinu Desai by a common friend who was looking for a script. It was Tinu who introduced me to Neeraj Pandey, who loved the script and immediately signed me. Now the challenge was to find the right hero for this awesome subject. Akshay was the first choice but he didn’t have any dates to assign. Finally, in August 2015, Neeraj arranged a narration with Akshay Kumar, who gave us the green signal. The pre-production started immediately and we started shooting in January this year.
Since this story was about a naval officer, and since I am an ex-Navy man, it was decided that I would supervise all the Navy-related scenes including the haircut, uniforms, ribbons, medals etc. That’s one reason why Rustom looks so authentic. I also have to thank the producers for supporting this wholeheartedly. So, for instance, when we wanted a 1959 era warship, we could have created a set or shot on any warship, but the producers helped us locate a warship from that exact era in England – and we shot there. There was absolutely no compromise on detailing. In fact, during the shoot, Akshay received a message from the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Dhowan, congratulating him on his genuine look.