Neerja Bhanot, an ordinary 23-year-old girl from a middle-class family, found courage and calm in her job as senior flight purser on the fateful Pan Am Flight 73, flying Mumbai to US on 5th September, 1986. She alerted the pilots so they could evacuate as soon as she realised their plane was hijacked by four armed men at Karachi airport in Pakistan. The aircraft was carrying 376 passengers and 19 crew members.
Neerja – the movie is a fitting tribute to her strength, confirmed by her family in reports. Their faith in Atul Kasbekar and team, having refused many film offers for 30 years, is intact. Back then, the family used her insurance money to create Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust keeping her memory alive.
Ram Madhvani rightly keeps the 121-minute film factual and tightly knit throughout, only loosening the grip towards the end – allowing the audience some space and tears to grieve the braveheart along with her parents. It was a relief to let go. Knowing what was in store, I was close to chickening out of watching this one.
Ace actress Shabana Azmi plays Neerja‘s mother to perfection. Yogendra Tiki as her conscientious father wins us over. The unknown actors who play the terrorists are excellent.
Any actress would pale in comparision to the original. To her credit, Sonam Kapoor has given it her all, and some more. Keeping her performance subtly toned to the bone in several key moments, she is vulnerable.
As Neerja, when she tucks into the chocolate biscuit and braces herself to face her fate right in the eye, you bravely walk with her.
Neerja teaches us a thing or two about compassion and integrity in the face of system delays and authority failure. Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin.
cinemaspotter rating: 4 out of 5