Neerja- A review
The simplest of people can have the most epic stories to tell, case in point— Neerja Bhanot from the film NEERJA. A rarest of the rare experience—Neerja made me shed a tear, and not one but plenty. I purposely started with this, because firstly I am not a Bollywood film-goer as such and secondly because I have hardly cried in a film till as long as I can remember now. To cut it short, it is really a rarity that a filmmaker in B-town thinks of making a film as close to reality as possible.
Starting with the cast of the film, I believe Sonam Kapoor did complete justice to her role in the film as Neerja Bhanot. Having said that, I must admit that I always took her to be one diva who has been in the acting business only because of her father’s credentials and then of course, a pretty-looking face. But with a film like Neerja in her kitty, I am sure she has shut many a wagging tongues, including mine. Essaying the role of a middle-class air hostess and a model, Sonam lent not only the innocence that the character demanded but also the courage and charm of a brave daughter that the nation had forgotten quite easily.
Director Ram Madhvani, along with the producer of the film Atul Kasbekar, have let their vision come on to the screen just as beautifully as the actual story of a fearless girl who saved close to 400 lives on one unfortunate flight, Pan Am 73, back in 1986. The film is a perfect example of how one can embrace their fears and still face life with utmost positivity and strength. It was Neerja’s first flight as the head purser aboard the Pan Am 73; which got hijacked whilst standing on the runway at the Karachi International Airport.
Neerja had a brief, disturbing marital relationship with a greedy man settled in the gulf, but came out of it stronger than before at the meagre age of 21. Not letting her past come in the way of her dreams, the feisty girl decided to take control of her life, and the way she handled the situation of a hijack was commendable. She literally laid her life, trying to protect the passengers and the rest of the crew by showing absolute courage and no discrimination whatsoever–and this is the main story of the film.
The director kept the tension of the entire hijack sequence alive by putting the camera bang in the middle of the action. Also, not once would you look at the frame and realise that the aircraft is a constructed set and not an actual one.
Lovingly called Lado, she was supposed to return home and celebrate her 23rd birthday with her affectionate family. But little did she know that this was going to be her last flight.The film touches you at various levels, and one such thread of beauty is the mother-daughter relation that Neerja and her mother shared. Needless to say, Shabana Azmi infused life into the character of Neerja’s mother Rama Bhanot, and having watched the film with both my mothers–my mom and mom-in-law, I can without a shadow of doubt say, that every soul in the theatre left with moist eyes.
Madhvani is a renowned ad-filmmaker and in his own words ‘Neerja was a make or break film’ for him, but he excels, and just how! I wouldn’t want to be a spoil-sport (further) in revealing all the glorious moments of a special film like this, so I’d suggest you go watch the film–for it’s a tale which is not just engaging but also highly encouraging.
– by Sharath Nair
(Sharath Nair is a Producer with Dainik Bhaskar Digital. He is also a successful filmmaker on Environment, Conservation and Wildlife.)