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One of a kind

One of a kind
Highlights

Don’t just watch ‘Neerja’. Watch it again and again. Every chest thumping pop patriot put your money where your slogans are. To the sensitive liberal thinker: invest a few rupees and 120 minutes to share pride-filled moments of this forgotten braveheart Neerja.

Don’t just watch ‘Neerja’. Watch it again and again. Every chest thumping pop patriot put your money where your slogans are. To the sensitive liberal thinker: invest a few rupees and 120 minutes to share pride-filled moments of this forgotten braveheart Neerja.

Just the other day I recommended that every school and teacher make it necessary to watch a movie. Now in quick succession and as a rare professional experience I have the privilege and pleasure of recommending the same for yet another film. ‘Neerja’ is arguably one of the best in a long long time. It is no part of the job to plead with the reader to canvass for a film. This is an exception I judiciously make in a career spanning over three decades.

The film starts with operations happening simultaneously at Karachi (not Pakistan terrorists) and Mumbai. While at one hand are the terrorists who are planning the hijack of a plane from Karachi, at the other is the fizz-filled Neerja (Sonam Kapoor) in a Mumbai flat with parents Harish (Yogendra Tikku) and Rama (Shabana Azmi) doing up a pre-birthday bash for one that is destined to not be.

Neerja takes off on the ill fated flight after a cosy send off by boyfriend in waiting Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani). Even before the flight is on the take off mode the hijackers take control of the plane with over 350 passengers – a real life incident. Neerja on her maiden trip heading the crew goes about tackling the challenge. To her communities and nationalities do not matter. Human beings do. The entire narration deals with human courage punctuated with some poignant domestic denominators giving roots to the tale and veracity to the character. The details are irrelevant. The narration is riveting.

Ram Madhvani, thank you ever so much for taking a slice of life and wetting my eyes for the first time in very many years. Thanks for reminding me of what Lincoln once said: there is no shame in tears even if it is in the hidden darkness of a film theatre with insensitive co watchers! Thanks for rolling out a real tale without making it needlessly heroic or crassly patriotic. Thanks for giving the crew its job and getting a team that knew what it must do. Whoever said perfection makes for poor art did not know of you.

Sonam, was the big question mark. I wondered if the filmmaker had not made a mistake with the choice of casting her in the title role (given her filmography). She comes out with a career-defining performance. I wondered if it was Bipasha Basu who did ‘Zameen’ who should have been called upon. No, not this time. She is just right and controlled. No histrionics. No dramatics. Filmfare and Zee will not give her an award and this must be construed as a huge compliment.

In a very appealing appearance is Yogender Tikku as the hurt dad always trying to keep his emotions under control! Then there is Shabana Azmi who at this age has come up with a hat-trick of compelling performances: ‘Jazbaa’, ‘Chalk N Duster’ and now ‘Neerja’. You wonder what she is doing playing second fiddle.

Watch the scene where she packs the gift for her daughter, does a dance jig and then suddenly turns emotional. So gradual and seamless is the performance. It could do a Meena Kumari and a Nutan proud. She obviously chose the script for the last punch. That is arguably a genius at work.

‘Neerja’ is not just a film. It is a fluid essay on the human spirit. Both sides. It is a reminder of a story forgotten. It is an ode to courage, a salute to credibility, a renewal with good cinema, a reiteration of human values and a window to hope.

Neerja

Cast : Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku
Direction : Ram Madhvani
Genre : Drama
ThumpsUp : Script, Sonam and Shabana
ThumpsDown : It left me with wet eyes

Rating : 4

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