When a film based on real people and real life incidents are made, the general tendency is to go overboard, add as much as slow-motion scenes to artificially create more impact. ‘Neerja’ doesn’t do that. ‘Neerja’ is not pretentious. ‘Neerja’ is not manipulative. ‘Neerja’ is definitely one of the best films produced which is so realistic and to the point. The movie captures the hijacking episode that happened in Karachi in 1986 where the bravery of an airhostess helped rescue 300+ passengers.
Neerja (Sonam Kapoor) is a model-cum-air hostess in Mumbai with a family that’s her biggest support. She loves her job and is made the lead airhostess for a flight that’s flying from Mumbai to New York via Karachi and Frankfurt. When the flight lands in Karachi, four terrorists quickly barge in and take the control. The rest of the movie is about the 23-year old’s courage and presence of mind saving the people.
The starting 15 minutes of the movie is a bit scary as it shows some signs of the movie going for a toss with some clichéd dialogues and clichéd acting by Sonam and others. The Rajesh-Khanna act seemed over-done but in the climax scene you just forgive that when the Rajesh Khanna reference comes again in Shabana’s speech. The screenplay is done very interestingly where Neerja is getting ready for her flight and parallel the terrorist with their explosive belts,AK47s and grenades . Also later in the flight amidst the whole chaos, Neerja recalls her sad past. Those intercuts make the flow much more engaging.
Sonam Kapoor seemed to be the perfect cast as Neerja. She got that look pitch-perfect and no other actress would have resembled the look more than Sonam. She was good in the film, if not extra-ordinary. A bit annoying when she was with the family but in the airplane she was very apt. Shabana Azmi makes a great impact being very real instead of being a Bollywood conventional mother. The actor who played Neerja’s father was very convincing too. The phone conversations between both of them showed some top-class acting. One of the four terrorists was really terrifying. He superbly emoted the ruthlessness, nervousness and the frustration. Shekar of the Vishal-Shekar duo appears in a cameo.
The last 20 minutes deeply touching and the movie ends up as a wonderful tribute to one of the heroes of our nation, Neerja Banot. The movie conveys a great message of the human spirit.
The movie deserves a standing ovation and Neerja Banot deserves a big salute.