Directed by Ram Madhvani
Produced by Atul Kasbekar, Shanti Sivaram Maini, Bling Unplugged, Fox Star Studios
Written by Saiwyn Quadras, Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh (dialogues)
Screenplay by Saiwyn Quadras
Starring Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravjiani
Music by Vishal Khurana
Cinematography Mitesh Mirchandani
Edited by Monisha R Baldawa
Production Company Fox Star Studios
Distributed by Fox Star Studios
Release dates February 19, 2016
Real-life heroes are way better than the ones we see, create or admire on the big screen. They might not look perfectly decked up all the time, make a grand entry and an even greater exit from the frame in the most overrated slow-motion shots. They might not be so exceptionally skilled to kill every bad man in their way; on the other hand, they might get killed at the end. And trust me if they do so, it’s never pre-designed to sympathetically benefit their own image amongst their fans. Real-life heroes also necessarily don’t have to be always a ‘Hero’ to inspire; they can also come in as a bold, fearless, strong-headed and proud 23-year old girl from the next door! Ram Madhvani’s inspirational biopic NEERJA successfully brings us closer to one such hero, most of us wouldn’t have known of if the efforts were not made.
Neerja Bhanot [played on screen by Sonam Kapoor] is our regular girl next door who doesn’t miss her vanity box while leaving for work. She is a head purser in a leading international airways company. She has a promising career in modeling also but she prefers this ‘Mazdooron wala kaam’ as her mother [Shabana Azmi] ironically complains about the wee hours at work. She is just two days away to celebrate her 23rd birthday and her plane gets hijacked by a terrorist group seeking their associates’ freedom in return of 379 passengers on board. NEERJA confirms for the grave situation, tensed air and frightening faces of fear as we proceed further in the film. NEERJA also observes the bravura instinct of ‘never lose hope till it ends’ in Neerja Bhanot- an ardent fan of yesteryear Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna and his popular dialogue in Hrishkesh Mukherji’s ANAND, “Babu Moshay, Zindagi badi honi chayiye, lambi nahin!”.
In Neerja Bhanot, there is a lot more than just a submissive, fearless and sensible human flight staff. She is an awful and abusive arranged marriage survivor too. Ram Madhvani skillfully manages to showcase both of her traumatic positions in past and present where she has to make choices that could make or break her identity as an individual. She could have chosen to die in peace by going ahead with the ‘adjustment clause’ in the marriage most mothers preach to their daughters or else could live long with the guilt of not standing with the right. She picks to die for humanity and live long for the human race as a great example of unshaken courage, undying hope, and incomparable heroism!
NEERJA doesn’t hit every cord right especially in the first half where Madhvani tries to convince us investing in the characters emotionally. The excessive mentions of the Rajesh Khanna references are also not well-received at all the time. In fact, this is the part where you know with your experiences in the past that what exactly comes after. The good thing is Madhvani smells it sooner than you think and doesn’t wait too long to go jump in the pool of terror where an extraordinary tale of great courage awaits to unfold. With an abrupt interval point, Ram also dares us to think again about bringing the much-needed and long-awaited ‘No interval’ initiative in the current Bollywood scenario.
NEERJA is a surprising set of some grounded performances. Sonam Kapoor handles to make us believe in her skills well. If she is not bothering you as Sonam while watching it, you should know how blessed you and the film are. Shabana Azmi is the strongest when it comes to targeting your tear glands. Yogendra Tiku as her father and the actor playing Khalil- one of the hysterical terrorists deserve a special mention!
At the end, NEERJA makes you feel indebted, obliged and appreciative towards such brave souls. In the desperate times of ‘pseudo-nationalism’ taking over the spirit of individual’s freedom, choice, and humanity at large, it has the guts to show a mirror to the society. A 23-year old teaches us to live and die as it should be; and now, it’s time to respect her sacrifice!
Written By: Gaurav Rai