Director: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sonam Kapoor / Shabana Azmi / Yogendra Tiku / Shekhar Ravjiani
Written by: Saiwyn Quadras / Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh
Before I continue, I owe thanks to my darling family who agreed to accompany my insane desire 🙂 of going to watch the late night showing of the movie, even after travelling for more than two hours back home from the office, so that I could write this movie review at night!
To start with, I won’t talk about the story—a lot must have been said about it or most of us would know it! I have been reading so many posts about how Neerja fought while realising her duty and saved hundreds of lives and I have been listening to her last flight announcement since the release of first teaser of it. I would rather talk of how the movie affected me or the house-packed audience (even at the late night show!) who were all moist eyes [probably because they were learning their lessons that it is always far better to love the ones in front of you than miss them when they are gone].
This shattering story of the beautiful, martyr lady is a compelling watch. Sonam Kapoor plays the protagonist Neerja and as a lively girl next door who ‘loves her job’ she leaves us all speechless. Despite the couple of scenes where she poses a blank face, she manages to astonish all with her convincing performance while she journeys from a panic-stricken, vulnerable girl who goes through marital abuse to a girl who is the heart of the party at her society to the composed, gallant lady at the hijacked flight. After Raanjhanaa and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Sonam once again proves her mettle.
Shabana Azmi is a classic Punjabi mother who keeps finding ‘matbal (meaning)’ in all her daughter’s doings. She fusses around her daughter, but then she has this edgy feeling when the plane is hijacked miles away. Rama is an astute mother who often encourages Neerja to leave her scary job (her BP rises with Neerja’s flight taking off), but steers her through a broken marriage.
Yogendra Tiku as Neerja’s favouring father, Harish, leaves an everlasting impression on the audience in each act where he backs his daughter or where he comforts his wife. Each cast of the movie—including Neerja’s brothers, the three terrorists, Neerja’s friend hostess, the three children, and the actors playing passengers [the old lady who acted the mother of a young boy was astonishing]—is remarkable. Even Shekhar Ravjiani survives to mark his charisma in a role that is a few minutes long.
Director Ram Madhvani has paid pedantic attention to maintaining authenticity and realism of the late 1980s, especially the 1980s plane that took around 48 days to be designed, while adroit editing by Monisha R Baldawa gives the movie a sympathetic pace. Analogous stories between Neerja’s happy present and Karachi and between Neerja’s struggle against the terrorists and against her ex-husband pitches in the conflicts that a receptive protagonist is expected to go through.
The best about Neerja is the portrayal of the family who eats, sleeps, and drinks together; who stands together in the time of distraught [even the pet dog becomes intuitive when her beloved is endangered]. The emotional turmoil and the silent ashes immersion at the end swell your heart both with pride and pain and you come out of the hall saluting the real hero.
The bad (not the worst) about the movie is a little haphazard near-end and the superfluous ‘mere sapno ki rani’ song scene in the middle of the scuffle.
Each of the four songs is a beautiful composition with notable lyrics by Prasoon Joshi and heartfelt music by Vishal Khurana. “Gehra ishq (khushboo khushba, mehka ishq…Dooba dubka gehra ishq)” is velvety, romantic number whereas the “aisa kyu maa (Heera kaha, kabhi nagina kaha)” is an innocent thank to each mother. “Jeete Hain Chal (gham musafir tha jane de…dhoop aangan mein aane de)” is another inspirational song.
In the end, all I could say is that Neerja indeed is a heartfelt homage to the braveheart, a happy-go-lucky girl from a middle class family who fought not for herself, but for the distressed only because her father would ask her “Bahadur Kaun? (Who’s Brave?)” all the time.
PS: The entire audience watched the movie in utter silence as if showing gratitude to the spirited persona.