Fitting tribute to a true hero

Fitting tribute to a true hero

Neerja
Hindi (U), Director: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku

‘Neerja’ is told in a gripping 122 minutes. And as the end credits roll (along with tears down several cheeks in the hall), one wants to know more about the gritty 23-year-old.
Sonam Kapoor compels one to read up on Neerja Bhanot, the flight attendant who died saving passengers of Pan Am flight 73 in Karachi in 1986. And therein lies the success of the hijack drama.

For members of Navjeevan Society in Bombay, Neerja was a model-cum-airhostess who was the life of the party. At home, she was her mother’s pet who shared bed with the pet dog. For her friends (and boyfriend), she was a Rajesh Khanna fan who tried to bury memories of a troubled marriage with her favourite ‘babumoshai’ songs and dialogues.

Sonam deserves applause for rekindling interest in one of the youngest recipients of Ashok Chakra. But it’s Shabana Azmi who anchors the tearduct department and tugs at the heartstrings. As the mother who loses her “laado” to four Palestinian terrorists of the Abu Nidal group, Azmi beautifully conveys the fathomless pain of a parent.

Giving her strong support is Yogendra Tiku, the journalist father who helplessly watches events unfurl in his newsroom. Tiku gives a brilliant, understated performance as he gives precious life lessons to his “brave bachcha”.

Ram Madhvani’s restrained direction gives an edge to the film, which takes viewers right into the middle of the action as four men unleash terror on 360 passengers. And Sonam pays a fitting tribute to Neerja’s valour in a career-best.

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