Airlift Film Review: An Uplifting Experience

| January 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

AIRLIFT IMAGEThere is hardly any melodrama in Airlift. There is no 24×7 media coverage.There could not be, as there was none during the period shown-circa 1990.There is nothing fake in the fictionalized account of a real-life event, that has been recorded in Guinness Book Of World Records as the largest evacuation carried out successfully in the annals of recorded human history.

The heroism has more to do with humanity rather than patriotic fervor. Yes but it does give a message that if we as Indians come together, we can do wonders with our cumulative strength, strategy and resources.

Raja Krishna Menon makes a confident debut with his Airlift. He recreates the chapter in world history of 20th century, where invasion by Iraq to bully and cow down its neighbor and creditor Kuwait, resulted in a situation where lakhs of immigrants  were rendered homeless, including 1,70,000 Indians that became refugees overnite.

It’s a salute to India’s civil aviation and airforce,especially the national carrier for having taken up the task of evacuating all these refugees in 488 sorties over a period of 59 days. Despite being in red most of the time, Air India came out with flying colors. It did that again recently in 2014 when it evacuated almost 5000 refugees caught in the warzone of Yemen.

The military attack on Kuwait turned lives of lakhs of Kuwaitis while the socalled security forces of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard, (mostly constituting of young boys in their late teens and early twenties) tom tommed Kalishnakovs as toy guns to play around with. It was free for all scenario with only one objective– to kill Kuwaitis and loot their wealth.

Indian businessman,settled in Kuwait, one Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) who was more Kuwaiti than the locals themselves and despised anything Indian, with one turning point in the story, has a change of heart.

He had been otherwise  a successful,well-heeled, powerfully connected and influential businessman in Kuwait. His network and negotiating skills got him the best business deals from the ruling Kuwaiti family. Alas, on the day of invasion, the ruling elite escaped to Saudi Arabia leaving Kuwait completely rudderless.

Ranjit Katyal decides to stay put overcoming his initial urge of fleeing to London with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and young daughter Simu. Overnite his city of dreams becomes an abode of the death and destruction. He stays back to organize the rescue mission for his company’s employees and thousands of others who see in him some kind of a rescuer.

The hatred of Saddam Hussein’s forces spared Indians, as the dictator somehow felt that India had been on his side when his nation was on the receiving end of the harsh world opinion. Hence he allowed Indians an escape route through Jordan.

Ranjit Katyal’s character modeled on two real life heroes Mr Mathhews and Mr Vedi, sets up a refugee camp with help of his friends, to shelter and feed thousands of Indians, as he goes on to negotiate with anyone in India and Iraq to get a safe passage for his wards caught up in the invasion.

How Ranjit Katyal goes about organizing the rescue and  negotiating the route, notably, travelling 1000 kilometres over to Jordan through Iraqi territory  is what the rest of the story is all about.

His persistence to seek help, in the face of consistent no-response from Ministry Of External Affairs in Delhi highlights the bureaucratic maze and inefficiency, political dilly-dallying that has been the bane of our country till date.

Akshay Kumar after his passionate performance as a member of ultra-secret special cell Baby, is driven in Airlift with a mission, to fight the forces of destiny, and is utterly convincing and natural,. Nimrat Kaur is a perfect foil to Akshay Kumar and shows her brilliance in couple of scenes, especially the one with one refugee Mr George (Prakash Belawadi) where she defends her husband. The bond between Ranjit Katyal and Amrita has its emotional highs and lows that cements the relationship as husband-wife and life partners completely.

Prakash Belawadi as an uptight, complaining refugee makes you feel like slapping the guy and that’s a compliment indeed. Kumud Mishra as a joint secretary in External Affairs Ministry with his amiable, understated but persistent behavior gives another outstanding  performance.

Inaamulhaq (of Filmistaan fame) in the role of Major Zayd of Iraqi Army exudes sufficient menace to torment Ranjit Katyal. Rest of the ensemble cast is well chosen and exonerates itself with aplomb.In

Cinematography by Priya Seth is evocative. Mustafa Stationwala’s production design is authentic and his research in recreating the period very effective.Debutante director and storywriter Raja Krishna Menon take a bow for job well done.

Airlift is a tribute to the couple of Indian government officials, plus pilots of Air India, Indian Airlines and airforce, and die hard spirit of good Samaritans like Ranjit Katyal. Barring some commercial constraints and stereotypical situations, Airlift is an uplifting film with some eye-opening and thrilling moments and somewhat hurried climax capped by a narrative to wrap up the proceedings. Maybe it became too much to tell.But there is no maybe while recommending this movie.Go for it to lift your spirits.


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Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Dhieraj Mohan is Hindi cinema's keen observer. With earnest interest in its dynamics and constantly changing milieu he revels in dwelling on the discrepancies, idiosyncrasies,contradictions,masala and the formula that defines Bollywood.He is a poet and a screenwriter too,who simply adores Hindi cinema's chameleon like traits.

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