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Neerja Review: As gripping as it is poignant!

Neerja Review: As gripping as it is poignant!

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Friday 19 February 2016

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Movie Title

Neerja

Director

Ram Madhvani

Star Cast

Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravjiani

Heroism—how does one define it? Often, everyday heroes don’t look special (no fancy costume) or stand out in a crowd. You notice them only when they conduct themselves with extreme grace under pressure, when they think about saving all not just themselves, when they become unforgettable for their baffling bravery.

The film is about one such hero. Based on a real-life incident that took place in 1986, the film makes you imagine the situation of being trapped in a plane hijacked by terrorists. It’s an uncomfortable thought and as the film goes on, you find yourself wondering— what would you do if you were the Head Purser of that flight like Neerja, if you were the parents of such a person, if you were one of the passengers, or if you were the airport staff negotiating with the terrorists?

As you flit between these roles in your head, you realize it is the power of the film to have you involved so deeply with its story and characters.

In the beginning of the film, we see Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) as she’s bidding goodbye to her mother for a flight, her first one as Head Purser. Her birthday is coming up and she has requested a yellow salwar-kameez. The boyfriend drops her to the airport handing her a letter to be opened on the birthday. Her friends are happy for her, urging her to forger her past and give life a second chance.

Neerja’s flight is scheduled to fly to Frankfurt with a stopover at Karachi, which is where the stationary plane gets hijacked by a group of terrorists. There are all kinds of people on the plane – older people, children, pregnant women. Within a few moments the criminals take charge, terrorizing everyone. Things become worse as the hours tick by with the tired passengers losing hope and the terrorists getting more aggressive.

Out of 379 people on the plane, 359 were saved. Not just that, the terrorists were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. And that’s because Neerja, 23 years old at the time, decided to execute a daring rescue operation, putting her own life on the line.

Director Ram Madhvani and writer Saiwyn Quadras tell us the story flitting between time-lines. It’s masterful how the central character’s present situation (the hijack) takes her back to the days of her abusive marriage. These intercuts show us a unique insight into the probable workings of her mind at the time. And the fact that she chooses to remember what her father always said to her, “Galat kaam na karna, na sehna” (don’t do wrong, don’t tolerate wrong). Adding to the astute writing-direction are strong performances, sharp cinematography and editing, flawless production design bringing out the ‘80s in an elegant, understated manner, and wonderful songs.

Sonam Kapoor is wonderful as Neerja Bhanot, encapsulating the steeliness beneath the affable demeanor. She keeps us with her, wholly involved, completely rooting as she boards the plane, as she confronts the terrorists, as she dares to serve her flight passengers even in that tense situation, when she finds a second to open her boyfriend’s letter, and when she finds it in her to comfort other people and make their rescue her priority.

In one of the film’s most touching scenes, Neerja’s distraught mother (Shabana Azmi, wonderful) talks to a teary-eyed audience. She wonders why we teach girls that they are weak and only brothers are called “veer”, when Neerja proved braver than anybody. She says Neerja became their family’s “kul ka deepak” (light/pride of the family), but the pain of losing a child remained impossible to express.

Again it makes you wonder—what makes a hero sacrifice their own life for saving others? Where does so much love for humanity come from? Perhaps the film can give us some answers. Aside: This is one of the few films where the audience was moved enough to applaud together. Highly recommended!

Neerja review: 4 stars

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