Monday, February 29, 2016

Neerja - Movie Review

So many good reviews about the movie that we all decided to go see it. The movie is well made and keeps you glued to the seat right till the last of the credits rolls skyward. Not many movies do that.

In 1986 a not-yet-23 year old purser on a Pan Am flight from Bombay to USA via Karachi and Frankfurt, Neerja Bhanot, finds herself handling a hijack on her first day as head purser. Under tremendous pressure as hijackers storm the plane waving weapons, she keeps her head and alerts the pilot and crew who leave the plane through a hatch (as per protocol) and thereby leave the plane stranded on the Karachi airport. As the hijackers get more and more desperate - their original plan was to hijack the plane to Cyprus and use the hostages to negotiate release of their 'brothers' - Neerja finds herself getting more and more defiant and resourceful. Showing exemplary courage and responsibility she uses a cool, thinking head to do what is right for the passengers safety and comfort. Some hostages are killed. Neerja, at great danger to her life somehow manages to hide or get rid of American passports after hearing the intent of the hijackers to kill Americans. Estimate is that she saves 40 Americans through that act. And on and on, she puts her life repeatedly in danger in negotiating space for her passengers at risk to her own life. When the hijackers open fire in a desperate final assault she somehow manages to open the door and the releases the escape chute, and lets passengers escape. 359 survive of the 391 people on board. While trying to save three children, she takes a bullet and yet somehow manages to get off the plane. Neerja does not survive.

Neerja Bhanot remains India's youngest Ashok Chakra recipient - India's highest peacetime award for valor away from the battlefield.

Sonam Kapoor does a fine job. It's very well directed, told in a gripping and taut manner and edited beautifully. The way an incident from the past pops up to make sense at the right time and build her character along the way is shown so well. Deserves to be watched in the theatre.

Ok, this happened as an after thought. The pictures they showed of Neerja from her childhood and youth at the end really kept me hooked. You could see her whole life rolling in front of you, at school, at her modelling assignments, at parties, posing for pictures. Lovely.

Anjali sat through the movie though she was a bit upset at the violence and at one time it looked like I might have to walk out with her. But she braved it. When asked later by her mother on what she liked about the movie she said she liked it when Neerja tells the terrorist - I am doing my job just as you are doing yours. Allow me to do it.

But interestingly her list of what she liked of the performances were - Neerja's mother, Neerja's husband, Neerja and the terrorist. 

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