The Story Frame:
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Neerja is a true hijack story of Pan Am Flight 73 way back in 1986 that happened in Karachi, Pakistan. The film depicts the presence of mind and the bravery displayed by a 23-year-old head purser Neerja Bhanot of the said flight to save 359 passengers on board from the clutches of international terrorists. Neerja is the youngest Indian to be awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award for bravery in facing the enemy during peace time. She was also awarded Tamgha-e-Insaaniyat (Awarded for showing incredible human kindness), Pakistan.
Cast: Sonam Kapoor (Neerja Bhanot), Shabana Azmi (Rama Bhanot), Yogendra Tiku (Harish Bhanot), Shekhar Ravjiani (Jaideep)
Director: Ram Madhvani
Producers: Atul Kasbekar, Shanti Sivaram Mani, Bling Unplugged, Fox Studios
Written by: Saiwyn Quadras, Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh
Screenplay: Saiwyn Quadras
Music by: Vishal Khurana
Cinematography: Mitesh Mirchandani
Edited by: Monisha R Baidawa
Production: Fox Star Studios
Distributor: Fox Star Studios
Release Date: 19th February, 2016
Duration: 122 Minutes
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark
Neerja is the story of that brave girl who looked deep into the eyes of fear and kept reminding her the values her parents have taught her . She didn’t blink even once to lay down her life for her passengers on the Pam Am Flight 73 in which she was the head purser– flying from Bombay to New York via Karachi and Frankfurt – which was hijacked by the dreadful Abu Nidal organization ( a Palestinian terrorist group) on 5th September, 1986 at Karachi airport in Pakistan.
The film Neerja is a reminder to all – to those who don’t know her and to those who have forgotten her and her sacrifice. Sonam Kapoor as Neerja has done a fantabulous work. She is highly successful in essaying the role of Neerja’s trial, grit, commitment towards life and her profession. There are times where you see less of Sonam and more of Neerja. Neerja the ‘Laado’ of her parents and siblings soon becomes the audience ‘Laado’ too. Sonam Kapoor as Neerja this time has given a befitting reply to all her detractors who often doubt her acting skills.
Neerja comes as a sigh of relief to many cinema lovers who had to go through a string of highly disappointing films (Sanam re, Sanam Teri Kasam, Mastizaade, Kya Kool Hai Hum 2) in the near past. These films not only dampened the spirit of valentine’s week but also shamelessly lowered the standard of the visual story telling medium ‘Cinema’.
The movie begins by depicting Mumbai’s trademark Kaali Peeli taxi (Black & Yellow) entering Bombay’s Navjeevan Society with Neerja a die-hard fan of Rajesh Khanna in it delivering one of Kaka’s iconic and legendary dialogue –“Babu Moshai, Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye, Lambi Nahi” to her old taxi driver who too is a movie buff. A bubbly and cheerful Neerja and her love to live life happily set the tone for the rest of the movie. Though, as audience we know what awaits the fate of Neerja, still the movie makes us sit at the edge of our seats to know the last two days of this good soul.
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Director Ram Madhvani has gifted Bollywood a biographical drama film worth enough to watch and get inspired at the same time. This biopic leaves your eyes moist and makes you walk down the aisle of the theatre with a heavy heart. Neerja reminds us that humanism, love to live and let live should take precedence to jingoism and communalism. Neerja as the head purser acts beyond the conservative mind set of nationality and leaves no stone unturned to save the lives of everybody on board be it - Indians, Pakistanis, Americans and Brits. Her presence of mind and her training to deal with such crisis helped her to alert the pilots to get off the plane through an overhead cockpit hatch leaves the hijackers baffled how to proceed further.
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The bonding she has with the people in her life viz: her father (Yogendra Tiku), mother (Shabana Azmi), her brothers, and her good friend Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani) are very touching. The flash back amidst the hijack drama reveals many phases of Neerja’s life – an arranged marriage gone awry, her relationship with her ever supportive father and her loving and caring mother. The climax of the movie is riveting. The scenes in the flight portraying the old, middle-aged, young and children terror stricken are heartrending to watch. The scenes back home in Mumbai is painful to see – Neerja’s parents consoling each other, her mother hurrying to a tailoring shop to get stitched a yellow salwar kammez for Neerja’s birthday etc. Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku and Sonam Kapoor have given powerful performances.
In short, Neerja is a must watch. Watch for the spirit of a girl who is ready to give a second chance to her love life, watch it to see a girl who was brought up with values and principles, watch for a girl who loved humans more than their color, creed and nationalities, watch it to salute India’s brave daughter ‘Neerja Bhanot’.
Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 4/5