Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Let’s salute the unsung heroes

25 years into the industry and Akshay Kumar’s choice of movies off late has forced me to admire him with a renowned sense of appreciation. Airlift, his first offering for this year released in India last Friday. The trailer was decent enough to pin my expectations up from the film. And of course, the very pretty and talented Nimrit Kaur gave me a whole new reason to catch the movie the same weekend it released (which is very rare of me to do).

More than any of the above reasons, the plot of the film intrigued me immensely. Airlift is the story of the biggest-ever human evacuation done by India in the history of mankind. Directed by Raja Menon, the movie is about those 1, 70,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990, and kick-started the Gulf War. Ever heard of this incidence? Never had I before I chanced upon the film.

A poster of the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The movie starts with chronicling a day in the life of a Kuwait-based Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal played by Akshay Kumar. He is super-rich, resourceful, and has no sense of belonging or attachment to his native country, India. He considers himself a Kuwaiti and prefers listening to Arabic music rather than Bollywood songs. Who knew, one day, the very same Bollywood songs would save Mr. Katyal’s life.

The scenes where Saddam Hussain’s brutal forces exploiting and invading Kuwait successfully establish the fear stricken atmosphere for the story. The callous attitude of an alarmingly slow-to-take-heed Indian state brings a sense of familiarity to our government and even cracks us up a couple of times. The film stands honest to such minute detailing. Congratulations! 

The scenes where Saddam Hussain’s brutal forces exploiting and invading Kuwait successfully establish the fear stricken atmosphere for the story. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The music is bang on. I personally love grooving to the song, De Di and the melodious Soch na sake, though that seemed a bit forced into the narrative. Amal Malik is on a roll, churning out chartbuster albums one after the other. The inclusion of minimal songs helped in not ruining the story.

A still from the song, De di. Photo Courtesy: Internet

With the inclusion of the flag hoisting scene and a new rendition of Vande Mataram, maybe the director wanted to invoke that response from the audience that the climax of Chak de India brought about. But that really falls flat.

The screenplay, I felt, got stagnant for a major part of the narrative which made me kept waiting for a ‘wow’ moment and before I realised the movie came to an end. Not boring, I would say, but it could have been compensated by cutting the movie short by 10-15 minutes.

Purab Kohli in a still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

As the story precedes the nature of relationships undergo transformations as well. As Katyal puts it aptly, “Jab musibat aati hai na, toh bachcha maa ko hi pukaarta hai”. Purab Kohli’s role of the innocently sweet Ibrahim Durani is heart touching. As an actor, we are certain of the immense potential he has. God knows why he is not being offered more interesting characters in the industry. 

Okay, let me put a disclaimer before I proceed with anything else. If the trailers (or anything else) have given you the perception that the movie is about HOW a single man airlifts lakhs of Indians from the war zone areas, then this may lead to some disappointment.  No! Do not expect Argo- like moments that would leave you biting your nails/get you to the edge of your seat/instil in you a new found sense of pride for your country. All that the two movies in comparison have in common is the theme of evacuation. Nothing more meets the eye.

Do not expect Argo- like moments in the Airlift. All that the two movies in comparison have in common is the theme of evacuation. 

The movie is about how a couple of people headed by our common man, Ranjit Katyal, made more than a lakh of Indians safely reach Jordan from the invaded Kuwait to get them airlifted to safer areas.

The film at the end, credits not just one person, but a few other men including people from the Indian govt who had responded to desperate calls and sent help. This movie is not just about one man, Ranjit Katyal. It is about a group of strong, courageous men who together made this mission possible. Don’t push this story to a one man’s heroism tale. It is not.

Neither this tale (the movie which is based on true events) nor the actual event that happened in 1990 was a one man show. According to the director, the Katyal’s character is an amalgamation of two gentlemen, Sunny Mathews and Vedi, who formed an unofficial committee to oversee the evacuation of the stranded Indians. Let’s salute, their spirit and everyone who had even a remotely small hand in making this evacuation a success. And let’s salute the makers of the film for bringing to us this remarkable story of Indian achievement.
There is so much to learn from this extraordinary real life incident, this Republic day. For starters, go watch the film.

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