Life abounds with stories of unbelievable feats of courage & resilience of ordinary people on the face of crisis. If January saw Bollywood capture the exemplary valour of Ranjit Katyal (modeled after numerous brave individuals) during the Gulf War through "Airlift", then this month is about Neerja Bhanot who is revered for her extraordinary display of courage which saved the passengers of the Pan Am airlines in 1986. She was honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra & was the youngest recipient of it apart from other honours from the US and Pakistan. So will "Neerja" be able to do justice to the exceptional spirit of this great female???
For those who arent quite well versed about the tragic events that unfolded on the fateful night of September 5th, 1986; I will just give a brief overview. Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) was the darling of her parents, who instilled confidence & courage in her to pursue her dreams even when life inflicted a harsh blow in the form of a failed marriage. Two days prior to her 23rd birthday, she was on her maiden flight as the senior flight purser of Pan Am 73 from Mumbai to New York via Karachi. Incidentally, four armed terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization was plotting to hijack the plane from Karachi in exchange for their men in prison. As planned, the terrorists managed to hijack the plane however Neerja's timely alert ensured that the pilots escaped leaving the plane stranded on the tarmac. As the patience of the terrorists wore thin, so did the hopes of the passengers on board but Neerja was determined to protect as many as possible. How this incredible female managed to pull off this daring feat forms the crux of the movie.
The movie has been helmed by Ram Madhvani who has made it appear as authentic as possible rather than make it into a stylish thriller that we are so used to nowadays. As a matter of fact, the jerky cinematography coupled with the apt choice of lighting by Mitesh Mirchandani really helps in providing the impact. With regard to the screenplay, Saiwyn Quadras has done a praise worthy job for most parts especially the portions which shows flashbacks of her past & how she gathers strength from that. However, I felt the parts which focused on the incidents inside the plane lacked detail & seemed more like just reading the wikipedia page.
It's no secret that Sonam Kapoor isn't a talented actress as is evident by most of her performances to date. But she definitely impresses this time around & likely to be in pole position to swoop up awards. From a physical appearance point of view, Sonam was spot on & does her part well also, but I believe Kangana Ranaut could have been a better choice. The best performance in the movie however belonged to Shabana Azmi who just owns the scene every time she came on screen & equally awesome was Yogendra Tiku (as Neerja's father) (the scene where both talk over the phone comforting each other was brilliant). As for the rest, they were average & didnt have much to do.
Verdict: The film will not take the box office by storm but it will have the word of mouth in its favour which will help it in the long run. It's not about how captivated we will be on watching the movie, but rather it's an occasion to be inspired by a young female who sacrificed her life in the line of duty & more importantly, to protect the life of her fellow beings. So do check it out as it will surely move your heart, it sure did for me!!!