There are two types of feelings I experience after watching a film and exiting the movie theater. One, where I have so many thoughts and reactions to the film that writing about it afterwards comes easily and naturally. And then there are others – like Neerja – that render me speechless and at a loss for words.
Neerja is a biopic and depicts incidents from the life of Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), a flight attendant who gave up her life to save her fellow passengers on a Pan Am hijacked flight. Throughout the film, we also become acquainted with Neerja’s mother Rama (Shabana Azmi), her father Harish (Yogendra Tiku), her brothers, and her pet Nikki.
Bravery is a defining characteristic of Neerja (the person and the film). The concept of courage appears repeatedly throughout the movie, inspiring Neerja to stay calm and do the best she possibly can in such perilous circumstances. Along with bravery, director Ram Madhvani shows viewers the range of human nature and human behavior possible during situations of chaos and panic. Whether it is the terrorists’ anger and frustration at not receiving their demands or Rama’s denial to accept that Neerja was in danger, each emotion is so realistically explored in the film.
Needless to say, this movie is definitely a tearjerker and highly intense in terms of emotional content. While the first half of the film leading up to the main action seemed a bit slow, the plot thickened and became more gripping once the plane was hijacked. Ram Madhvani’s direction is excellent, and his alternation of flashback and present appropriately contributes to the development of the story. Cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani enhances the fear and intensity quotient by focusing mostly on closeups of the characters. Whether they were Rajesh Khanna favorites repeated on celluloid or original pieces of advice to inspire the audience, the profound dialogues by Sanyukta Shaikh Chawla are definitely one of the strengths of this thriller.
It is no easy feat to essay the role of Neerja, a brave, happy-go-lucky individual who has faced many trials and tribulations throughout her life, and Sonam Kapoor did a great job in and as Neerja. Yet, for me, Shabana Azmi stole the show as Rama Bhanot. Her ending speech about Neerja will move anyone to tears, as she completely embodies the sentiments of a mother who has just lost her child. It was a pleasant surprise to see Shekhar Ravjiani onscreen and he suited the role of Jaideep. It must also be noted that the actors who played the four terrorists did a fantastic job, making the film and hijack situation seem even more scary and brutally realistic.
Final Verdict: Neerja is an intense, heartfelt film that was made with great conviction and the motive of inspiring others and instilling faith in the human spirit. As the filmmakers say, Neerja must be watched because it is a story that needs to be told.