Courage – it’s a virtue everyone possesses; only a few choose to use it. Neerja Bhanot was one of them and that’s what makes her life so remarkable. Bollywood finally tells this story in a magnetic film with spellbinding performance and brilliant direction.
This is a bio-pic of Neerja Bhanot, a purser for Pan AM, based in Mumbai, India. She was shot while saving passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on 5 September 1986. The aircraft was carrying 361 passengers and 19 crew members. Subsequently, At 23, she became the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime military award for bravery and valour, the Ashok Chakra.
Moments into Neerja, the glamourous Sonam Kapoor disappears and flawlessly slips into the character of real life hero Neerja Bhanot. She makes us believe that she is and was Neerja. This is to date Sonam Kapoor’s career best portrayal. She was born to tell the story this Hero. The film is an enthralling two-hour drama out of a real-life tale of sheer courage.
Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) is a successful model and the head purser at Panam Airlines. She is a diehard Rajesh Khanna fan and believes that one must live a big life rather than living for long. Her loving mother Rama Bhanot (Shabana Azmi) and an inspiring father Harish Bhanot (Yogendra Tiku) who loves to spoil their Laado as they called her. Neerja has a loving suitor in Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani). Life seemed cheerful until the ill-fated flight to New York on which Neerja is the head purser gets hijacked in Karachi by the Libya backed Palestinian terrorist group Abu Nidal. The past suddenly percolates in the memory space, for Neerja had earlier been in an abusive marriage and now she was facing abuse from menacing terrorists. Her extraordinary courage and presence of mind saved the lives of most of the passengers as she put others before herself. This is her story of bravery and valour.
This is a breakthrough in Sonam Kapoor’s career as an actress, not only because this is a brilliantly made movie but she carries this film entirely on her shoulders. She looks earnest, frightened, compassionate and daring, all at the same time. She creates the right balance between scepticism, repulsion and fear as the terrorists jostle and frisks her, and does even better when she meets their gaze and stands her ground. She might be operating on instinct, but she knows what she’s doing. Shabana Azmi is at her best in this film and she is impressive as Neerja’s mother, her grip over emotional scenes are mesmerising. She carries this film in its last 10 minutes with grace and a powerful performance. She portrays her role with finesse. Yogendra Tiku who plays Neerja’s father is a delight. Shekhar Ravjiani makes an excellent debut in her cameo.
When movies based on true events are made, it is often given more cinematic appeal by making changes to the actual story and adding other elements into the story. However the Neerja is made purely based on true events. It is a true depiction. There is no unnecessary melodrama and the film builds tension that remains with the audience till the end. Vishal Khurana’s music and background score is soulful and magnetic. ‘Jeete Hain Chal’ and ‘Gehra Ishq’ are delightful songs and luminously written by Prasoon Joshi. Vishal’s background score adds the essential fear and suspense.
The screenplay is attention-grabbing and engaging. The narrative is swift. Ram Madhvani brings remarkable perspective to the real life story by giving various points of view. It is magnetic when Neerja tells the head of the terrorist group that she’s just doing her duty the way they are doing theirs. The terrorists are shown to be edgy and nervous. They are as afraid as the harried passengers.
The appropriate manner in which Neerja derives strength from the memories of her family life both good and bad is seamless and gives depth to her character. The dialogues hit the right note. The cinematography is excellent. At times it is hand held camera adds a sense of reality to the various situations. The story flows beautifully thanks to its intelligent editing. A huge applause is in order for the art direction team as they have created the perfect replica of the aircraft Pan Am Flight 73 and the era which she lived in.
If you watch one movie this year let it be Neerja. Live through her last hours of bravery and courage. This is a movie of bravery and courage truthfully told and extraordinarily portrayed. This is beautiful storytelling.
Rating: 8/10 |4 Stars