Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Movie Review: Airlift

The Story Frame:

Airlift is the story of an estimated 1,70,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait when Iraq attacked Kuwait in August, 1990.The protagonist Ranjit Katyal's character is inspired by those business men who played a major role in the biggest civilian evacuation in aviation history. It is also the story of a man who had to choose between the safety of his family first or the safety of his countrymen first.

Raja Krishna Menon's Airlift is an action packed story with ample emotions, touching scenes and uncertainty. He has successfully presented Airlift after his 'Bara' Aana in 2009.   

Cast: Akshay Kumar (Ranjit Katyal), Nimrat Kaur (Amrita Katyal), Inaamulhaq (Major Khalaf Bin Zayd), Lena (Deepti Jayarajan), Fery Wazheir (Tasneem), Purab Kohli (Ibrahim Durrani), Prakash Belawadi (George Kutty), Kumud Mishra (Sanjeev Kohli), Abida Hussain (Ranjit Katyal's Daughter)

Genre: War Thriller

Direction: Raja Krishna Menon

Produced by: Nikhil Advani, Monisha Advani, Aruna Bhatia, Madhu G Bhojwani, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Vikram Malhotra

Production Company: Abhudantia Entertainment, Cape of Good Films, Emmay Entertainment, Hoari Om Entertainment, T - Series

Written by: Raja Krishna Menon, Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia, Ritesh Shah

Cinematographer: Priya Seth

Music: Amaal Malik, Ankit Tiwari

Film Editing by: Hemanti Sarkar

Distributor: Prateek Entertainment

Theatre Release: 22nd January, 2016

Language: Hindi

Duration: 125 minutes
Image Courtesy:
Reviewer's Thumb Mark

Raja Krishna Menon's Airlift portrays the indomitable spirit of a bunch of Indians under the leadership of Ranjit Katyal, a businessman in Kuwait, who becomes the reason for the largest civilian evacuation ever carried out in the aviation history during 13th August to 19th October, 1990, when an angry Saddam Hussein unleashed his powerful military force on Kuwait for not toeing his line against the US.

The attack was the result of the growing animosity Saddam had with the 'Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and in particularly with Kuwait. He wanted these countries to reduce the oil production in order to create a pseudo situation of oil scarcity which would result into spiraling of oil prices in the international market. Saddam desperately wanted this to happen because for him it was the only easy way out to deal with Iraq's debt of Fifty Billion Dollars which Iraq had incurred due to its prolonged conflict with Iran.

Saddam's army marched into Kuwait and with lightning speed the whole Kuwait was under siege. Kuwait was left in lurch by the royal families who fled for their lives and took political asylum in Saudi Arab. Like Kuwaitis, many other nationals and almost 1,70,000 Indians became shelter less and were at the mercy of Iraq. The nation plunged into anarchy, plunder, and merciless killings of civilians. The fate of people stranded there in Kuwait away from their respective homelands was in the hands of peace negotiators and International Human Right Agencies, who were equally aghast and were yet to come to terms with the sudden political developments in the Middle East.

Ranjit Katyal, a self-made successful businessman with excellent business acumen is found happy to call himself a Kuwaiti rather than an Indian suddenly find himself caught in the political turmoil his country is in like any other ordinary citizen. Moreover, the Iraq attack becomes a dampener to his success party on his recent achievement of clinching a crucial and significant business deal. He realizes that his business clout and connections in the political echelon doesn't help him much when he is dragged out of his luxury car and is pinned down by gun-wielding Iraqi army men. A man like Ranjit Katyal, who was cynical about India and Indians was found pleading for his life's safety and telling that he is an Indian and not a Kuwaiti. His cynicism was to such an extent that he would taunt his Keralite driver Mr. Nair to stop playing Indian songs and ask him to play Arabic music.

Ranjit Katyal is devastated to find his longtime aide and driver Mr. Nair brutally shot dead in front of him while pleading for Ranjit's safety. Reeling with guilt and helplessness, Ranjit a self-centered, shrewd business man slowly transforms into a Messiah for lakhs of Indians in Kuwait.

Airlift is the story of those unsung heroes and hapless refugees who saw hope in the midst of political turmoil. Raja Krishna Menon has deftly crafted this movie portraying the war-torn Kuwait with complete fairness. He has very well captured the hardship of the refugees. The plight of the refugee camp set up by Ranjit Katyal and his friends are heart rendering like - the hope, fear, emotional outbursts, self-doubt, helplessness, and the high handedness of some refugees like George Kutty (Prakash Belawadi) based on their financial, caste and religious status etc.

Prakash Belawadi as an irksome typical Malayali has played his role par excellence. Purab Kohli (Ibrahim Durrani) as a distressed husband in search of his missing wife and as a silent protector of a Kuwaiti mother and child is convincing. Nimarat Kaur as Mrs. Katiyal has done well. But could have been better may be because of the kind performance she had delivered in 'Lunch Box' may have raised the bar of expectation of the audience. It also could be that the character of Amrita Katyal may not have been etched out well  to play a significant role in the whole unfolding of the events. Yet Amrita's showdown with George Kutty who is strongly opinionated is a good watch.

Inaamulhaq as the Iraqi Major Bin Zayd is outstanding. His many encounters with Ranjit Katyal on the negotiation table are quite interesting and watchable. Kumud Mishra as Sanjeev Kohli, the loner pulling the threads in India in the Ministry of External Affairs is a show stealer. Though, reluctant initially like any other lackadaisical government servant he slowly emerges as a significant game changer in the execution of the massive civilian evacuation.

I wish Raja Krishna Menon could have justified the role of many other officials and government machinery  who had played a major role in the evacuation operation by adding some more scenes and characters. In the absence of this it is hard and less convincing to believe that only one government servant like Sanjeev Kohli was involved in pursuing the cause of Indian refugees in Kuwait.
Priya Seth's cinematography is commendable and he ensures that the audience live every moment virtually the tragic event. Songs like 'Tu bhoola jise', Dil cheez tujh' and 'Tanu mai itna pyar kara' are too good. Amaal Malik's and Ankit Tiwari's music are quite appreciable and noteworthy.

Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katyal has given a terrific performance. He with great ease slips under the skin of a Kuwaiti business man and ensures his super stardom doesn't creeps into his acting and dialogue delivery. He fails, he stumbles, he withdraws into shell and bounce back like an ordinary man not as a hero. Akshay has left the audience wanting more and more after every new releases' of his.

In short, Airlift is the triumph of human hope and unity in adversities. It is a reminder that each one of us need to be socially and morally responsible as human beings and as citizens of our country. It also tells us that a country other than your motherland may give you power, fame and success but that doesn't mean that you belittle or be cynical about your nation.

Every scene of Airlift teaches us that 'Turbulence in Life is Temporary and What we Learn out of it is Permanent'. So go and watch Airlift and be proud to be an Indian and celebrate the success of all those unsung heroes who brought their countrymen back home.

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 4/5