Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku, Shekhar Ravjiani
Direction: Ram Madhvani
Why have we waited so long to tell this incredible story?
Ram Madhvani’s ‘Neerja’ is nuanced, compelling and sincere. Our director shows rare restrain as he handles this remarkable biographical story of Neerja Bhanot, the flight attendant abroad the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73, who was shot dead by terrorists.
Whether it is the brutality of the terrorists or the ruthlessness of Neerja’s ex-husband, there’s never an attempt to over dramatise the situation. Madhvani ensures that the narrative moves seamlessly – the edits seem precise as we witness the mayhem aboard the hijacked flight on one hand and as we see her family try to cope with fear of their only daughter’s plight on the other. Even the cut to the flashback when Neerja recalls the horrors of her abusive marriage is handled efficiently; it never unsettles the pace of the primary plot.
I think the skill of a director lies in understanding the strengths of his actors. Madhvani knows exactly how much to entrust to which actor – while Sonam Kapoor is the star of the film, it is Shabana Azmi’s part that tugs at your heartstrings.
Sonam is best when she seems clueless on how to handle her disgruntled husband; she looks sincerely distraught. The fact that she essays this role by underplaying the emotional bit works for her.
The very good-looking Shekhar Ravjiani manages to create an impression in his bit role.
But it is Shabana Azmi who belts out a heart wrenching performance. She is flawless as the mother who is trying to be strong in the face of fear that she might lose her only daughter to brutal extremists. And when she plays the mother who tries to make sense of a 23-year-old’s death, she doesn’t miss a single beat. Your heart goes out to her feeling of loss and the inescapable pain of losing a child.
‘Neerja’ deserves loud applause because not only is it an exceptional story of courage but because it is an ode to the undying spirit of humanity.