‘Heroes can come from unlikeliest of places’
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Shekhar Ravjiani
Directed by: Ram Madhvani
Written By: Saiwyn Quadras
Year of Release: 2016
When we started aaLAWchak, we made a policy that we will cover movies related to law and the legal system. However, we believe that there are some stories that by their very own intrinsic nature, are required to be covered. Neerja is one of them, it’s a special one, may be not the movie but the person and her story.
Neerja is a biopic on Neerja Bhanot, a super successful model and an erstwhile purser with the Pan Am Airways.
A 23 year old, who while doing her job surpassed all barriers of human service, compassion, bravery and courage in a highly astute and commendable way.
With passage of times, Hindi film industry, has started taking keen interest in Biopics, which is an excellent sign showing growth and maturity of the industry. In recent years, we have seen a spurt of biopics, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Paan Singh Tomar and Shahid. A departure from a typical Bollywood potboiler is much required.
Neerja Bhanot, is the winner of:
• Ashoka Chakra, India
• Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award, USA
• Justice for Crimes Award, United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
• Special Courage award, United States Department of Justice.
• Ministry of Civil Aviation Award, India
• Tamgha-e-Insaaniyat (Awarded for showing incredible human kindness), Pakistan
In 1986, Pan AM Flight 73 flight travelling to New York from Mumbai, India via Karachi, Pakistan was hijacked while on the ground at Karachi, by four armed Palestinian men of the Abu Nidal Organization as they wanted to negotiate with America for release of their fellow members. In order to achieve their plan, they wanted to divert the flight to Cyprus.
Neerja Bhanot, the head flight attendant, not only informed the Pilots, that there is a hijack of the flight in an excellent moment of composure but saved life of around 359 passengers on the flight.
After the flight is hijacked, the Pilots leave the flight just in time, due to Neerja’a message, so as to avoid any altercation with the hijackers, who would have forced the pilots to fly the flight to Cyprus. Due to this move, the flight gets stranded in Karachi and the hijackers have no option but to negotiate with the Government authorities for pilots.
Neerja also ensures that her hostile guests are unable to identify Americans by hiding their American Passports.
After the pilots had left, Neerja was in charge of the flight and she performed her job exceedingly well. A highly compassionate human being, who was so selfless that she could have been alive today, if she would not have made an endeavor for saving each and every passenger on the flight of which she was appointed to take care off.
Neerja, is not an excellent piece of cinema. However, it is a first-rate statement on how proud we should be of this lady. The movie does not glorify what she did. It only presents a cinematically stylized version of the events, which make us feel proud and in awe of the indomitable human spirit. Neerja is a tribute, a gesture of appreciation and an admirable mark of respect.
Sonam Kapoor plays Neerja, and does her job well and looks pretty convincing. This could be the best film of Sonam Kapoor’s career.
Shabana Azmi, plays Neerja’a mother and she carries a wide range of emotions in her performance.
Shekhar Ravjiani of the Vishal-Shekhar duo has a small cameo in the movie and has a very likeable screen presence.
There are few songs and the writers have chosen to place them at relevant places as background scores, which ensure that the viewer is not sidelined from the integral plot. Our favourite is ‘Jeete Hain Chal’.
The movie is directed by Ram Madhvani, who earlier directed little less known English Language film, Let’s Talk in 2002. The direction is worthy as the director has been able to take out good performances from all its actors, especially the agitated and angry hijacker who gets the best moments in the film.
The movie holds pace and keeps you intrigued. However, there is no nail biting tension in the movie, which can keep you glued and on your toes.
There are a lot of fine scenes and moments in the movie. However, our favorite scene is when Neerja is getting ready and preparing herself at her home for the flight. Simultaneously, we are shown the hijackers preparing for their task on the flight. Both sides are depicted as being sincere and committed to their duties. The question that would be answered at the end of the film is who will ultimately succeed? Neerja does and that too in a superlative manner.
To sum up, Neerja is an outstanding story and a tribute to a person, who at the age of 23 was probably the most composed person on a hijacked flight. A person, for whom the words like gratitude would fall short of their intended purpose.
We salute, Neerja Bhanot and her spirit. Forget movies and remember the people, such people are too few.