Raj Kumar Gupta on Sabrina Lall and the Making of 'No One Killed Jessica'
No One Killed Jessica director Raj Kumar Gupta remembers Sabrina Lall's ability to forgive.
Filmmaker Raj Kumar Gupta says he was shocked to know about the demise of Sabrina Lall on Sunday night. Lall was instrumental in the making of Gupta's second film No One Killed Jessica (2011), which dealt with the murder of Jessica Lall in 1999 and her sister Sabrina's subsequent battle for justice. 53-year-old Sabrina passed away on 15 August after a prolonged illness.
Gupta, who made the hugely successful No One Killed Jessica, worked closely with Lall to research the case before scripting his film in which Vidya Balan essayed Sabrina Lall's role. "When I first met Sabrina with my producers, we had already had a few conversations over the telephone and she was onboard about the idea of making a film about her sister Jessica and on herself and what we wanted to explore. I was a little nervous during my first meeting because I didn't know whether she would open up about what she had gone through, as it was something that was so personal and tragic to her," says Gupta while talking to The Quint.
However, the filmmaker's apprehensions were soon put to rest because Lall was very open and accessible while talking about her painful struggle in fighting the system to bring justice to her late sister. "She was so forthcoming, and it was easy to speak to her. It was a very normal conversation. And as I spoke to her, I came to know how strong she was from inside, even though she had gone through what she had, Sabrina was very open while talking to me about the case," recalls Gupta.
Initially, Gupta's first concern was whether Lall would allow them to make a film on the Jessica Lall case.
"Once she said yes, I used to sit with her for 2 or 3 hours every day for around 8 to 10 days, because for my personal research I wanted to hear about her personal journey and know what she had gone through, what she felt at that time and what she's feeling now. That's how it all started," says the filmmaker.
Talking about how Lall would spare time to speak to him during the initial phase, Gupta recalls that she used to work during the first half of the day and in the evenings Lall would dedicate a few hours to talk to him so that he could script the film as authentically as possible.
"For me it was an overwhelming experience and after hearing her story I needed a break to collect my thoughts and have an objective perspective for the film. So, I took a break for a month after my sessions with Sabrina and then I started writing my script," says Gupta.
Through his interactions with Lall over several months, what really stayed with Gupta was her forgiving humane side.
While recollecting his conversations with Lall, the filmmaker says, "She was very forthcoming, honest and compassionate in my interactions with her. The best thing about Sabrina was that she did not have any anger bottled up inside her. Yes, she was totally devoted to fighting for justice for her sister, but she was still very humane. She never had any angst against life or the system, which was very remarkable. One thing that struck me about her was her ability to forgive."
Gupta also remembers how emotional Lall was at the first screening of No One Killed Jessica. "The first show of No One Killed Jessica was in Delhi, we had arranged a special screening for Sabrina and her family and friends. She was very moved and overwhelmed by the film. She was kind of reliving certain aspects of the tragedy that had happened which she was an important part of. She was happy with the film and I am sure it would have been cathartic too for her," says Gupta.
Last year when Manu Sharma, who was convicted for killing Jessica, was released from prison, Sabrina Lall said that she has forgiven Sharma. Earlier in 2018, Lall had reportedly written to the jail authorities saying that she had no objection to his release.
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