Indians living abroad know what it feels like to be of a hybrid identity, having origins in one country while living and working in another. Airlift is a film that focuses on one such group – namely Indians in Kuwait – and follows the trials and tribulations they face when Iraq invades Kuwait (based on a series of true events). Ranjit (Akshay Kumar) is a leading businessman in Kuwait, where he lives with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and daughter Simran. After the Iraqi invasion, Ranjit valiantly takes responsibility for ensuring the safety of all Indians in Kuwait.
Throughout his journey, Ranjit interacts with many different types of people, from powerful tyrants to ungrateful citizens, revealing the vast continuum of human nature. In the process, he must also confront his own attitude towards India, which is complex in many ways. Thus, the human emotions and sentiments in this film are totally real, capturing every moment of joy, pain, and suffering these Indians in Kuwait experience when their lives are put in grave danger. Additionally, the film instills a feeling of gratitude for what we have and our safety.
Another important concept showcased in Airlift is how to overcome the bystander effect, which refers to the inaction of individuals in the presence of some evil act or injustice. As he mentions in the film, Ranjit and his family could have easily escaped the tense situation in Kuwait. However, instead of running away from the problem, he tries to find a solution by helping his fellow Indians through the conflict, a slow and difficult but sure way of conquering the bystander effect.
Airlift is an excellent film for many different reasons. Firstly, Raja Krishna Menon’s direction is superb, as is the extremely gripping plot, which maintains audience attention throughout the two-hour film. Scenes showcasing the invasion of Iraqi forces are shocking and frightening, reactions that are only heightened by the cinema’s surround sound experience. The music by Amaal Mallik and Ankit Tiwari is soulful, and the songs lighten the mood of this serious drama once in a while.
Needless to say, the acting by Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur is simply amazing. I especially enjoyed Nimrat’s dialogue criticizing Mr. George. Priya Seth’s cinematography – particularly of the middle eastern desert landscapes – is absolutely gorgeous. Another minute detail I appreciated was the spurts of Malayalam dialogues that appeared in between to reflect the high Mallu population in Kuwait.
Final Verdict: As an Indian-American, Airlift really got me in touch with the Indian aspect of my hybrid identity. A less commercialized, arguably somewhat underrated Bollywood film, Airlift must be watched and appreciated for what it is: a thrilling and realistic emotional rollercoaster.