His forthcoming Bollywood production “Naam Shabana” has been promoted extensively as a “spin-off” of his engaging and gripping 2015 directorial “Baby”. But filmmaker Neeraj Pandey firmly believes such “fancy words” don’t translate to impressive footfalls if content lacks quality.”

“MaMost importantly, it is whether film will work or not,” Pandey told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

“Nobody is going to go and see ‘Naam Shabana’ because of fancy words… Audiences make up their minds with the trailer, the cast, and how it looks, and the product has to fall in line as a good film,” added the reticent writer-filmmaker.

“Baby”, with an ensemble cast of such reputed actors as Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon and Sushant Singh, and a dash of girl power with Taapsee Pannu’s presence, told a compelling tale of a counter-intelligence unit out to disrupt a terrorist mastermind ready to strike India.

Taking a leaf out of the film, “Naam Shabana” looks into the back story of Taapsee’s Shabana. And if the trailer is anything to go by, the actress — who has come into her own with “Pink” — has upped the ante as far as heroines playing the hero on screen in Hindi films is concerned.

“She is really good in the movie,” said Pandey, who rarely blows his own trumpet despite having a repertoire of films like “A Wednesday”, “Special 26”, “Baby” and “M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story”.

Given that “Baby” was really his baby, why didn’t he choose to direct it and instead just produced it and penned its screenplay?

“Two reasons. I was wrapping up work on ‘M.S…’ while this was going on floors, so automatically I couldn’t be doing two films. Secondly, I liked the script and what director Shivam Nair wanted to do with the material… I was also looking at doing a film with him for a long time… So it just came out to be like that,” he said.

He says he wasn’t “controlling” the show, but he was sure since it was a spin-off in the making, it had to have the tone and tenor as close as possible to “Baby”. He was happy to “step back and let the director take over”.

Shivam Nair, who had directed the TV series “Sea Hawks”, and has had helmed movies like “Ahista Ahista”, “Maharathi” and “Bhaag Johnny”, took over the reins for “Naam Shabana”, releasing on Friday.

Glimpses of Taapsee’s character in the movie suggest it may have a message on women being empowered. Is it so?
“Well, it’s a take away that I leave to the audience. Whatever they want to take away from the film, they can. Our job is tell a story as effectively as possible. I don’t customise because I am not a huge fan of trying to tell something or give rules to remember.

“It’s an exciting film and you can have your own take out once you’ve seen it.”

What about his own next directorial — there has been buzz on “Crack” with Akshay for long?

“It’s happening, but I might do a quickie before that. I might do a quick feature film project before I start ‘Crack’ because ‘Crack’ won’t begin before second half this year,” Pandey said.

His work pace seems to have picked up in the past few years — “Baby” came in 2013, five years after “A Wednesday”. Is he catching up now?

“Trying to make up for sure… Catching up I can’t say. Make up, I can say.”