Ever since Ram Madhvani announced the making of his biopic thriller Neerja, a lost, untold or forgotten tale resurfaced as people Googled ‘Neerja’ and almost everyone knew the story of the brave Neerja Bhanot, the 22 year old , Senior flight attendant of Pan Am Flight 73 before the release date 19th February 2016. Neerja was shot dead while rescuing the passengers during the plane hijack on 5th September 1986 in Karachi. The terrorist group involved in the incident belonged to a Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization and were backed by Libya. The accused had been sentenced to death in Pakistan, later commuted to a life term.
The movie still captures every eye onscreen as the narration progresses through swift shifts and turns. We as viewer are aware of everything that the characters in the movie will be subjected to, the director and the script conform to this perception and the dialogues echo the fortune. The movie begins in Navjeewan Society, Bombay and the remarkable dialogue delivered by the protagonist, Neerja played by Sonam Kapoor is, “Zindagi lambi nahin, badi honi chahye”. The chronology is not much disturbed and merely 4 days sum up a life that a common girl undergoes. Neerja is like the girl next door, she loves to party, she loves to sleep, she loves to watch movies. She has a past, she knows not about her future, she had a heart break, she has a crush, and she had her dreams, her hopes. She has memories which she cannot erase! She has her own dilemma and a crushed domestic sphere, shattered hopes and revived wishes. Amidst her sphere a narrative shift in the setting direct the audience towards her destiny. The arrangement at Karachi hint towards the approaching tragedy and the paired activity that paradoxically get visualized on screen beautifully give fuel to the awaited part. Neerja wakes up in Bombay and the terrorist prepare themselves in Karachi, her brushing, make up and the morning ritual proceed peacefully at one end while the armed men proceed through the other side and as the unexpected providence would converge’ territories intersect to shape up the destiny of Neerja, who unaware of the moments ahead, plans her days ahead, thinks about a possible wedding with her lover played by Shekhar Ravjiani, the musician making a good acting debut with this character.
The movie grips through its narration, so much that the music and the songs do not strike our senses. Every possible emotion that a girl at 23 could have endured accommodates itself within these two hours. The plane soars high in the sky where national borders are not demarcated. The 400 passengers are an ensemble of multicultural, multilingual composition. They belong to India, the United States, Pakistan, Mexico and a few other countries. The cockpit crew is American; the attendants on board are Indians and Pakistanis. The terrorists belong to Palestine and they barbarically target Americans in order to set free someone from their association who has been arrested under some charges. But then, as nationalism irrespective of bounded definitions respires in the air freely, Neerja saves everyone and is posthumously awarded the bravery titles by all three nations (India, Pakistan and the United States).
Neerja’s interests, her family, her personal suffering and her act of bravery everything constituting her character is employed in the best possible proportion. The maternal pang and pride that a girl’s mother could invoke under such circumstance is voiced by Shabana Azmi, who plays Rama Bhanot. Neerja’s bond with her father Harish Bhanot played by Yogendra Tiku exemplifies a father- daughter relationship perfectly. Telephone calls with the repetitive assertion, “Bahadur baccha kaun…?” (“Who is the brave child?”) appear simultaneously in the flashback and resonate with the essence of bravery in the present scenario. The typical mentality towards working women during the India of 1980s makes its presence felt through the nostalgia of her once married life, her indecisiveness towards love and the fear of getting married culminate as the popular psychological tendency. Neerja, in all her dimensions is an epitome of a true Indian. Gender, age and psychological turmoil do not crush her spirit. She is the voice that invokes patriotism, courage and will in every tender heart. The film succeeds to bring alive the woman we lost, it attracts our insight as we keep posing the question, “what next?” and feel the pain of the passengers on board. The acting is natural, it makes us want to shout at the merciless terrorists and at the same time, feel the helplessness of the dying passengers. Neerja’s is a tale that the nation needs to hear, we need to define nationalism through the contours of our hearts, the courage, spirit and strength that resides within it and not through acts of empty sloganeering and vandalism.
The yoke of the times, go watch the real patriot!
(Image Courtesy: Flickr)
Would give it 8/10.