Neerja – Movie review

FEAR GAVE HER COURAGE

  


By Akshita G.

Genre: Others - Biopic   Recommended: General Audience   Released: 19 February 2016
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravjiani, Yogendra Tiku
Directed by: Ram Madhvani

Neerja, movie review

At the first look and the trailer release of this film, there were great apprehensions, both in terms of curiosity to know about the incident as well as the skeptics wondering whether Sonam Kapoor really was the right choice to play Neerja.

Neerja, as is known, is a biopic based on Neerja Bhanot (played By Sonam Kapoor) who was the head purser on the Pan Am flight from Mumbai to New York via Karachi and Frankfurt. The film is about the hijack of Pan Am flight 73 that took place on 5th September 1986.

The film starts with a closer look into Neerja’s life, her real character that of an ordinary girl with wonderful relationships with people in her life.

She is the apple of her father’s eye, the center of her mother’s universe as well as the darling younger sister of two brothers. The film then goes on to depict the incidents of “the day”, from the time Neerja gets ready for the flight till the end of the dreaded incident.

Even though the film is based on the hijacking that took place, it is much more than just that. The heart of the film lies in the mother-daughter relationship. The story goes beyond the incidents of just that day and gives further insight into Neerja’s life before the hijacking – her values, her rocky past and the beautiful relationships she had with the various people in her life. The story moves back and forth in time to depict these past incidents from her life to the time of the hijack which prevents the film from being monotone and provides an interesting change in storytelling and cinematography if not its pace.

Sonam Kapoor as Neerja was a very conflicting thought to digest at first. Being an actress difficult to be taken so seriously due to her Bollywood diva portrayal in past, it is rather refreshing to see her in such a role that demands sincerity and responsibility to be portrayed. She takes the first 10 mins of the film to get the audiences to accept her as Neerja but becomes almost instantly convincing as soon as she puts on the Pan Am uniform and then onwards, there is no going back.

Shabana Azmi as Rama Bhanot (Neerja’s mother) is truly exceptional. Needless to say the caliber she holds as an artist, her portrayal as Neerja’s mother is simply perfect. She makes us experience everything that she experiences – the horror of one’s loved one being in danger, the helplessness of the situation, the denial as well as the sheer remorse. The speech towards the end of the film where she talks about how her ordinary upbringing created an extra ordinary daughter perfectly captures the emotional turmoil that a mother experiences on losing her child and will move the audiences to tears.

Director Ram Madhavi does a brilliant job and special credit to be given to him for being so detail oriented with the story in capturing and recreating every moment of terror and showcasing the fear that had engulfed the aircraft. He does a wonderful job of telling the story already known and heard on various news channels with a distinctive newness. The film has been shot in not more than four locations, one being the aircraft which to one’s shock isn’t a real aircraft but a set re-created from scratch and down to every detail of an aircraft of the 1980’s. The filming and portrayal is so real that it engages complete concentration of the audiences. The actors, their emotions and the sets are so realistic to the extent, that it seems as if the incident itself had been caught in action back in 1986.

The supporting cast including the actors playing the terrorists do a wonderful job of supporting the story and providing further realism to the depiction of the attack. The background score adds to the emotions of the scenes and a special mention of the cinematography by Mitesh Mirchandani and screenplay by Saiwyn Qudras.

Bhanot was recognized internationally as “the heroine of the hijack” and is the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra Award, India’s most prestigious gallantry award for bravery during peace time.

All in all Neerja is an experience – of the hijack, of the emotion of fear in the state of fearlessness and the beautiful bond between a mother and a daughter. This film is a must watch for avid cinema goers and is definitely one of the best made biopics of recent times.

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Cast:
Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot
Shabana Azmi as Rama Bhanot
Shekhar Ravjiani as Jaideep
Yogendra Tiku as Harish Bhanot
Abrar Zahoor as Zayd Safarini
Jim Sarbh as Khalil
Ali Baldiwala as Mansoor
Abrar Zahoor as Safarini
Vikrant Singta as Fahad
Kavi Shastri as Naresh
Rehan Shaikh as passenger

Credits:
Directed by Ram Madhvani
Produced by Atul Kasbekar, Shanti Sivaram Maini, Bling Unplugged, Fox Star Studios
Written by Saiwyn Quadras
Dialogues by Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh
Screenplay by Saiwyn Quadras
Music by Vishal Khurana
Cinematography by Mitesh Mirchandani
Edited by Monisha R Baldawa
Production company – Fox Star Studios
Neerja, movie review