It makes no sense to review a movie 3 weeks after its release. Unless it is a film like Neerja, which forces you to sit, write and think on it for hours after watching. Neerja, directed by debutante Ram Madhvani is, in my opinion, one of the finest films to ever come out of Bollywood. And mind you this is coming from an avid watcher of Hindi cinema. Read on to find out why-
Sonam Kapoor plays the titular real-life character who avoided a large hijack on a Pan Am flight and rescued 357 (sadly,except her) lives who were present in the flight. The film takes us through the fateful day (5th September 1986) and gives us a look into what went through Neerja Bhanot that made an ordinary girl like her stand against a bunch of Palestinian terrorists.
Of course, the film was designed to be an emotional one given the gravitas of the issue and the fact that it is a true story. Every person who has seen the movie is asked by everyone- Did you cry? You might be having the question for me too. Yes, I cried, though not much. It was much more painful for me to watch her die than in the climax where her mother (played brilliantly by Shabana Azmi) gives an emotional speech.
But it is not for the emotion that I liked the film so much. It is for the cinematic and writing marvel on display. The film doesn’t take too much “cinematic liberties” to create the required impact. Rather, skillfully, it takes us right into that hijacked plane using hand-held camera movements. The background score, the sound design, the production design and the cinematography- literally everything works in favor of the film and constantly gives goosebumps. The characters, specially the terrorists are well handled and so is the violence. What works the most is the focus towards portraying Neerja as an ordinary girl who becomes a hero due to the situation she was at. It would have been easy to show her as a hero, bound to save the day easily. She is broke down and scared herself, but her past and the teachings her father (played by Yoginder Tiku) always used to give her keeps her strong and wise.
Saiwyn Quadras, Writer
Ram Madhwani, Director
Major credits for all this goes too Ram Madhwani. Frankly, this was a better debut than Court’s Chaitanya Tamhane. The story is presented in the most humanized way possible. Writer Saiwyn Quadras, who had also written last year’s biopic Mary Kom has done a brilliant job. I specially liked the build up of the hijack in the first half. What distinguishes this film over many others is its dependence on writing and direction more than the acting.
The acting department, being excellent, is just a cherry on the cake. Yogendra Tiku and Shabana Azmi as the parents were excellent. Their phone conversation when they get to know of her daughter’s plane being hijacked was one of the best moments of the film. There is utter helplessness in their face but they try hard to give solace to each other. Talking of Sonam, would any other actor have played the role better? Maybe. Does she disappoint or ruin the show? Not at all. She embraces Neerja with utter sincerity. And that is what was needed for a film like this.
The movie might still be running at a theater nearby, possibly tax-free. Do yourself a favor, watch this film. Don’t complain of “I don’t wanna cry.” The film is much more than that. Trust me. By reasoning that “it lacks entertainment value” or “there is no star cast involved”, you will miss out on a film of the millennium that is best watched in theaters. Of course, it has its minor flaws. There are some scenes which seems to be too filmi to be real. But it should and must be watch by one and all. It is storytelling at its best.
A TRIBUTE TO THE REAL NEERJA
It is a shame that I got to know about her story from a film. But at the same time, I am glad to have known it now. She not only saved those lives present in the plane that day. She not only helped in nabbing those terrorists but also avoided the release of many others. The life count saved must have gone to thousands, maybe even lakhs.
With terrorism on the rise everyday, we need to bring the Neerja within us to counter it.