Cast: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli, Kumud Mishra
Direction: Raja Krishna Menon
Raja Krishnan Menon’s ‘Airlift’ is Bollywood’s answer to ‘Argo’ (2012) directed by Ben Affleck. While Affleck devised the rescue of six Americans from Tehran, our very own Akshay Kumar has to figure out how to evacuate 1,70,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait.
Why haven’t we seen an adaptation of this incredible story on the big screen before?
The massive evacuation of Indian refugees from Kuwait was a story waiting to be told. It has all the elements of a war thriller – there is despair, drama, fortitude and hope. And our director does an immense job of bringing out the harrowing civilian crisis that Indians faced during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
It takes craft to weave a cohesive narrative that aptly renders the magnitude of this civilian extraction. There isn’t edge-of-the-seat drama all the time but there’s a human element that tugs at your heart.
Menon strikes a fine balance – the conflict and the resolution and the intervening period is skillfully handled. You get a fine sense of what actually transpired during the crisis. The Indian government is initially oblivious to the plight of its own citizens who had been living and working in Kuwait. And yet, when the situation gets dire, they manage to execute an evacuation of Indian expatriates – the largest evacuation ever.
While, I did feel that the songs slowed the pace of the film a bit – the rest was handled almost seamlessly. The brutality of the Iraqi forces on Kuwait nationals, the helplessness of stranded refugees and the ensuing chaos of the unrest make for a compelling watch.
The canvas is stark - of a nation caught in a conflict. The arid landscape appears as harsh as the Iraqi soldiers. What is a little jarring however, is how immaculately dressed our lead couple is throughout the conflict – Akshay’s linen shirts and Nimrat’s make-up appear flawless. May be it is by design – to show that they have no reason to live like refugees with the rest of them – but it does appear a little out of place.
What makes this war thriller exceptional is the performance by the lead and the supporting cast.
It’s credit to his range as an actor that for every ‘Singh is Bliing’ that Khiladi Kumar does he also does films like ‘Special 26’ (2013), ‘Baby’ (2015) and ‘Airlift’. Akshay’s is a power-packed performance in this way – restrained and intense. He doesn’t skip a beat, belting out a solid portrayal.
Akshay has the very capable Nimrat Kaur playing his wife – her portrayal is at once classy, feisty and vain. Of the supporting cast Kumud Mishra and Prakash Belawadi deserve a special mention.
You must watch ‘Airlift’ for I am sure most of us are oblivious to the magnitude of this real-life incident.
And if Akshay is planning to begin every year with a bang like this one, we surely aren’t complaining.