Director: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku, Shekhar Ravjiani
Ram Madhvani’s “NEERJA” is a heroic story of a brave young girl Neerja Bhanot who displayed extraordinary courage during extremely dangerous circumstances. It is a rare film that will make you cry profusely but at the same time scaffold you with strength to raise your voice against injustice and why one must never compromise on self-respect. As a movie watching experience, “NEERJA” is flawless. There’s not a single false note. No compromise at the level of storytelling. Bravo!
Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) is the 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. She’s also a successful model. Her doting mother Rama Bhanot (Shabana Azmi) and an ever encouraging father Harish Bhanot (Yogendra Tiku) love to pamper their Laado. Neerja has a loving suitor in Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani). Life seems to be hunky dory. In the present. 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.
Saiwyn Quadras’ smart and gripping screenplay is the backbone of “NEERJA”. The narrative goes back and forth in a very interesting manner. Ram Madhvani brings amazing perspective to the real life story by giving various points of view. When Neerja tells the head of the terrorist group that she’s just doing her duty the way they are doing theirs, it drives home a point. The terrorists are shown to be edgy and nervous. They are as afraid as the harried passengers. The opportune manner in which Neerja drives strength from the flashbacks of her family life (good and bad) literally pushes the right buttons of emotions among the audience. Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh’s dialogues are bang-on in communicating the angst, pathos and fear very well.
Sonam Kapoor has delivered the performance of a lifetime. The fact that Sonam has displayed astounding courage in real life at many an occasion by speaking about contentious subjects of national importance without bothering about the hate coming her way, she carries a certain credibility in this context that is very believable. What’s laudable is her precision. She never overdoes. Most importantly she internalizes the courageous spirit of Neerja who had a sound head during inhuman circumstances. When Sonam cries, you’d cry with her.
Also, by the end you’d feel like saluting the heroic spirit of both Neerja as well as Sonam. Shabana Azmi adds another feather to her illustrious cap. The entertaining way in which she speaks Punjabi, the state of temporarily losing one’s mind and the way she becomes Rama Bhanot is a good enough reason in itself to watch the film. Yogendra Tiku as Harish Bhanot is very effective in instilling fearlessness in his daughter. One of the terrorists by the name of Khalil looks every bit a hard core terrorist with a maniacal bent of mind. Excellent casting.
Mitesh Mirchandani’s cinematography is excellent. At times it is hand held, making it that much more real. Monisha R Baldawa’s editing is spot on. The songs are not allowed to be played for full duration, everything is kept that’s essential and there’s nothing superfluous in the film. Vishal Khurana’s music and background score adds value to the film. “Jeete Hain Chal” and “Gehra Ishq” are wonderful compositions and brilliantly written by wordsmith Prasoon Joshi. Vishal’s background score adds the necessary fear and suspense.
On the whole, “NEERJA” is a must watch ode to the youngest recipient of the highest civilian honour Ashok Chakra for displaying extraordinary courage and human kindness. It is a film that will make you stand up for what’s genuinely Right without bothering about nationality, religion, sex, cast or colour of the skin. Most importantly as a movie watching experience, you’ll be glued to the movie screen with tears and admiration welling up in your eyes. “NEERJA” is a movie that will make you a better person. Don’t miss it!