Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Yogendra Tiku
Director: Ram Madhvani
Producer: Atul Kasbekar
Films are those finer pieces of art, which give us a taste of those emotions that we either cringe or savour for multiple reasons. But very rarely does one come across a film, that not only captures the weak corners of the heart throughout the duration, but also leaves a lasting impact, which gets one to talk about it days after viewing it. Ram Madhvani’s Neerja, is one such film.
Inspired by one of India’s bravehearts, Neerja Bhanot, Ram Madhvani was determined to see that this film, was his finest ever work till date. And he succeed in every sphere of his direction. Neerja Bhanot was a head flight attendant on the Pan Am Flight 73 to America in 1986, when a group of terrorist hijacked the plane during a stop over at Karachi Airport in Pakistan. What culminated was a cruel, gruesome and a traumatising 8-9 hours of keeping all the passengers onboard as hostage. But the iron fisted courage of Neerja Bhanot only grew with every desperate attempt that the terrorists made to take over the situation. Her presence of mind and her sincere desire to risk her safety for the lives of everyone else on board, earned her admiration and respect nationwide.
I’ve been amongst the many that has repeatedly put Sonam Kapoor in a category of those actors who fail to challenge themselves, simply because of the lack of intensity in her previous work. But, every frame in Neerja, was a reminder to most critics if not all, that Sonam is much more than just your everyday glam doll that you gossip about. She personified a matured demeanour, through her subdued take on the character of Neerja Bhanot. I guess as an actor, when all goes wrong in your book of “Making an impression”, adapting to the subtle method of projection works more often than not.
She may have done over 150-200 remarkable films throughout her career, but each one of those performances only keep getting richer in emotion and deeper in appreciation for Shabana Azmi. Like most of her recent onscreen avatars, Shabana’s work in Neerja is a canvas of raw acting on display. Without giving too much away, her final monologue at the end of the film, is what defines her premium ability to deliver something special. She is one of those actresses who allows her inner discovery of a screenplay, to formulate into a brilliant portrayal of real emotions. And each time she does so, she leaves aspiring actors and prolific critics, spellbound.
The one performance that stood out for me throughout the film, was Jim Sarbh, who plays the terrorist by the name of Khalil. Not only did he go above and beyond to nail the character in every attempt to make it look flawless, but he did so with incredible consistency. As a student of acting, one hopes and tries hard to get it right in each take regardless of the challenges that come along with it. Jim Sarbh plays ‘nasty’ so well, that you want to pluck his head out and bang it to the floor multiple times. He was that good.
Every filmmaker spends hours behind the cameras, hoping that the vision that encapsulates the mind and heart, is the same that can be transformed on celluloid too. Ram Madhvani’s ability to use a subject as inspiring and heart warming as Neerja Bhanot, was something that transpired into a masterpiece, organically. It showcased soul and tears of the kind that rung a chord in the hearts of every film goer and critic. But beyond everything else, Neerja proved to be a success, because Madhvani extracted the most beautiful elements to bring Neerja Bhanot back to life.