Tears in Leicester Square: In conversation with Parineeti Chopra and the team from ‘The Girl on The Train’


Parineeti Chopra discusses the last day of shoot and how they adapted the psychological thriller releasing on Netflix, to give it their own spin

After a gruelling two-month start-to-finish schedule in London in late 2019, the cast and crew of The Girl on the Train found themselves at Leicester Square in the heart of the city. The moment director Ribhu Dasgupta called ‘cut’ after the last scene, the film’s lead Parineeti Chopra broke down. “I was emotionally exhausted. I remember that last day’s wrap — I was crying and Ribhu was crying. The whole unit was crying in the middle of Leicester Square because we were all drained in the most amazing way,” she says during a Zoom interview, adding, “The next day, I felt a kind of emptiness that I hadn’t felt before. It just shows how much we gave in those two months. It felt like running a marathon and then suddenly you’re made to sit on a chair. It was a crazy experience for me.”

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The Girl on the Train is an official Hindi adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ eponymous bestseller, which was also adapted by Hollywood in 2016, starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson and Justin Theroux. The latest re-telling of the thriller that drops on Netflix later this month is the story of Meera (played by Chopra), a lawyer with a dark past and a broken marriage who begins to fixate on the perfect life of a couple she sees in their home while on her daily commute in a train.

Route to adaptation

While the Emily Blunt version was transplanted to New York, Dasgupta chose to keep his version true to the book and set the story in London. “I wanted to adapt this novel and film for a long time, but I didn’t have access to it. When I finished my last film with Reliance (Te3n starring Amitabh Bachchan, which was a remake of the 2013 South Korean thriller, Montage), Shibasish Sarkar (Group CEO, Reliance Entertainment) offered it to me saying they have the rights to the book. I had read the book and I’d seen the Hollywood film, so I knew where I should go and where I shouldn’t while adapting it,” says Dasgupta. It was the way the story has been re-told that got Aditi Rao Hydari excited to play Nusrat, the girl on the balcony. “There’s a lot of ‘Are you seeing what you are seeing or are you not?’ that adds to the mysterious element of the film,” adds Hydari.

While making a film that’s been adapted before, most actors prefer to not watch the source material but Chopra wanted to see the 2016 one as a template for her personal growth as an actor. After all, Blunt’s performance did win her a BAFTA and SAG Best Actress nomination. “It was amazing to be able to have a film we could watch, not as a reference but to take whatever was needed for us. We have been inspired, and it was lovely to be able to say, ‘You remember how she did that scene?’ Those kinds of references were great for me personally,” she says, quickly clarifying, “Having said that, we’ve done a spin on it that’s completely ours. It is not like we’ve copied anything.”

A still from the film

Interestingly, on the other end of the spectrum, is Chopra’s co-star Avinash Tiwari, who is not a big fan of the Hollywood film. “I read this script and loved it. I think actors get all the credit for their performances, but I truly feel it is collaborative. Everything comes together to create a performance — your co-actors, your director and how he’s looking at a story and what he wants to say in the film. I think these things really influence how you want to go ahead and create a performance,” says the actor, who was last seen in Netflix’s Bulbbul.

The OTT switch

The Girl on the Train was meant to release in theatres last summer. But the pandemic hit, theatres shut and the world hit pause. While Kirti Kulhari, who plays Aaliya Shergill, a cop in the film, believes ‘nothing can replace that feeling of looking at a film or yourself on the big screen’, she adds, “The way events have unfolded in the last year, the game has completely changed for the better.” Hydari agrees. “I had two OTT releases that were theatricals to begin with — in Malayalam (Sufiyum Sujatayum) and Telugu (V). I was disappointed when I first heard about it, but I was so happy after those films were released. Theatre [viewing] is magical and so immersive, but one click and everyone can watch the film — it is unifying. Then it doesn’t become about Telugu, Tamil or Hindi films; it is the Indian film industry. It is about feelings and stories at the end of the day, where does language come in?” she concludes.

Girl on the Train releases on February 26 on Netflix.

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