Directed by Ram Madhvani and starring Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku and Shekhar Ravijani (special appearance), Neerja is a biopic of Neerja Bhanot, the senior flight purser on the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73.
Pan Am Flight 73 was to be a routine flight from Mumbai to New York via Karachi and Frankfurt. While the Mumbai – Karachi leg passed off without incident, four terrorists hijacked the plane as soon as it landed in Karachi and took everyone hostage. The rest of the flick deals with how Neerja and her fellow colleagues helped almost all the passengers escape.
When we first saw the trailer, we all wondered whether Bollywood could successfully pull off such a story. Did Sonam Kapoor have it in her to live this role?
First things first, I must say that Ram dives into the primary part of the story (the hijack) head on without adding any unnecessarily angles to the story. And that’s pretty awesome considering the track record of Bollywood with serious concepts. The sequences in the plane look so realistic that you actually feel you are one of the 300 or so passengers and can empathize with the horrifying situation each of them faces during the 16 hour hostage crisis. It all looks so realistic. Mitesh Mirchandani deserves kudos for his amazing cinematography.
The songs are not played completely. A minute or two is enough to add a few layers to the story and keep things moving forward. ‘Jeete Hain Chal‘, ‘Aisa Kyun Maa‘ and ‘Gehra Ishq‘ stand out as lovely compositions.
Neerja marks the arrival of Sonam Kapoor as an actor. She beautifully portrays every emotion – nervousness, happiness in time of despair, hope, fear, bravery and more! This is a career defining performance. Shabana Azmi as Rama Bhanot, Neerja’s mother is amazing as always. Her speech towards the end (though slightly melodramatic) is sure to bring a tear to the eye.
Yogendra Tiku as Harish Bhanot, Neerja’s father always reminds her that one should be fearless and always make an attempt to conquer the fears. Jim Sarbh as the leader of the terrorists is fantastic as his voice and mannerisms ensure that everyone around is terrified. Shekhar Ravijani doesn’t really have much scope.
This is a fitting tribute to a hero who laid down her life to protect so many others without caring for their caste, creed, region, religion and gender.
Go for it. You won’t be disappointed!
Rating – 4.5/5