Ram Madhvani, a well-known name in the advertising circuit, had made his feature film debut with an English film called ‘Let’s Talk’ in 2002. Madhvani was supposed to direct a big-budget fantasy adventure called Talisman for Vidhu Vinod Chopra in 2008 but the project fell through. Fourteen years after making his first film, the director is back with ‘Neerja’, a biopic on Neerja Bhanot, an air hostess who lost his life while trying to save the passengers on a hijacked flight.
Neerja (Sonam Kapoor) is an air hostess, who after going through a brief and traumatic marriage, has moved ahead in life with the support of her family and boyfriend Jagdeep (Shekhar Ravjiani). She is about to take charge of a flight as the head purser for the first time. Everything goes smooth until the flight arrives in Karachi, Pakistan. The plane gets hijacked by a bunch of terrorists who threaten the passengers and the Government with dire consequences if their demands are not met.
While the film focuses on the hijacking incident, it also gives one a glimpse of Neerja’s life and the struggle she went through during a specific period in her life. Though one would have liked to know a little more of about her life beyond the hijacking incident, these events successfully portray the wonderful human being that Neerja was. The flashback episodes have been juxtaposed very well with the events happening in real time.
Ram Madhvani’s direction is extraordinary. The vast amount of experience he has behind himself as an ad film director reflects in the way he holds the film together. The screenplay (Saiwyn Quadras) has been written very sensitively. The film is filled with several moments that tug at your heartstrings and all of them feel very organic. The dialogues (Sanyuktha Chawla) are simple and heartwarming. The camerawork (Mitesh Mirchandani) mostly consists of handheld movements that lend a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Monisha R. Baldawa, the editor, has done a good of creating a seamless transition between the hijacking episode and the other subplots. The action scenes (Manohar Verma) are realistic. Except for Jeete Hain Chal, the songs (Vishal Khurana) do not make much of an impact but they have been placed at the right places. Vishal Khurana’s background score is suitably minimal. The main theme music (heard briefly in the initial portions and at length towards the end of the film) is wonderful.
Sonam Kapoor shoulders the responsibility of playing the character of a real-life hero and she does complete justice to it. From portraying Neerja as a full of life woman to showing her dealing with her fears in an adverse situation, Sonam leaves no stone unturned to bring alive on the screen with perfection. Shabana Azmi does a splendid job as Neerja’s mother. The speech delivered by her towards the end of the film gives one goosebumps. Yogendra Tiku, as Neerja’s upright father, is very good. Shekhar Ravjiani leaves a huge mark in a cameo presence. He has great screen presence and a likeable personality. Though Kavi Shastri delivers a good performance as Neerja’s unempathetic husband, one wonders why is the talented actor (who played the lead role in Rishta.com, the TV show) getting to play miniscule roles in films (remember Happy New Year and Brothers). Jim Sarbh is terrific as the leader of the terrorist group. Vikrant Singta, Abrar Zahoor, Ismail Mohammad Mirza and Ali Baldiwala deliver effective performances as the other terrorists.
You do not, necessarily, have to do something out-of-the box or different to be called a hero. A true hero is the one who understands the meaning of the word humanity and has that one quality called basic goodness. Sometimes, life puts you in a situation where you can run for your life or stay back and think about the larger good of people. Neerja Bhanot was one such one such brave heart who put her life at risk and eventually, sacrificed it to save others. This film is a wonderful tribute to her and a gift to the audience who needed to know about this real life hero.