Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review of Airlift

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Cast: Akshay Kumar (Ranjit Katyal), Nimrat Kaur (Amrita Katyal), Feryna Wazheir (Tasneem), Inaamulhaq (Major Khalaf Bin Zayd), Lena (Deepti Jayarajan), Purab Kohli (Ibrahim Durrani), Kumud Mishra (Sanjeev Kohli), Prakash Belawadi (George Kutty), Lena (Mrs. George)
Direction: Raja Krishna Menon
Producers: Nikhil Advani, Monisha Advani, Aruna Bhatia, Madhu G Bhojwani, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Vikram Malhotra
Production Company: Abundantia Entertainment, Cape of Good Films, Emmay Entertainment, Hari Om Entertainment, T-Series
Distributed by: Prateek Entertainment
Written by: Raja Krishna Menon, Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia, Ritesh Shah
Cinematography: Priya Seth
Music by:  Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari
Edited by: Hemanti Sarkar
Release Date: 22nd January, 2016
Duration: 2 hours 05 minutes
Language: Hindi

Airlift, a film by Raja Krishna Menon (his last film was Barah Aana in 2009), is based on the largest civilian evacuation operation carried out in the history of mankind during Iraq-Kuwait War. This evacuation has found a space in Guinness Book of World Records. Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2nd August, 1990. Just to explain the background of this war, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in debt of US $80 billion because of the long-drawn Iran conflict that it had undertaken. Iraq wanted Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and specially Kuwait, to reduce oil production to create a scarcity of oil, so that oil prices could have been increased. This could have enabled Iraq raise more money. But, when both OPEC and Kuwait refused, Iraq became so furious that they attacked Kuwait and Iraqi Army seized the whole Kuwait within few hours. Most of the Royal Kuwaiti families fled to Saudi Arabia overnight leaving the country rudderless. Kuwait was home to approximately 1,70,000 Indians. All of them had lost whatever they had, be it their home, money etc. Some of the Indian businessmen formed a group who ensured that the evacuation of these Indians is done successfully. Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is the story of these evacuation events. In the film, the protagonist Ranjit Katyal’s character is developed on the basis of real incidents faced by the group of businessmen who became instrumental in these hugely successful evacuation efforts. It is also mentioned that the real Ranjit Katyal (name changed in the film) is alive and a great businessman in Kuwait. The logistics for Indians to reach Amman were arranged first. Evacuation was carried out during 13th August, 1990 – 11th October, 1990 i.e. for 59 days, with 488 flights (Air India, Indian Airlines and Air Force flights). Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a tribute to the human spirits which finds path even amidst turbulence, gathers courage in spite of losing everything.

Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) is a shrewd businessman, for whom, the profit explains everything. He is shown to be effortlessly cracking deals with Sheikhs and Royals. He is mostly cynical about India, prefers Arabic songs over Hindi songs and takes pride in calling himself a Kuwaiti. After a success bash for grabbing a big project, the news comes to Ranjit in regard to Iraqi army capturing Kuwait. Frantically trying for help from officials, and realizing that the officials have left the country, he understands that he and his family are also not safe like any other resident of Kuwait. Amrita Katyal (Nimrat Kaur) is also particular that Ranjit takes care of her and daughter. On his way to seek help, he sees the kind of violence happening, his driver Nair being shot dead. Kuwaitis were killed mercilessly.  He was taken to Iraqi Major Khalaf Bin Zayd (Inaamulhaq), who warns him subtly to mind his own business rather than being a savior. The transformation of Ranjit is shown in a natural manner. Unknowingly, he turns out to the hope of his employees, and other Indians as well. Ranjit sets up a refugee camp to feed all these Indians.  

Refugee camp becomes the witness of so many emotions: be it frustration, disappointments, grief, or even the hope, anxiety. Cast and community issues are also covered. Even amidst crisis, man like George Kutty (Prakash Belawadi) is shown, who has issues with each and every thing, be it cleanliness of washrooms, or claiming his own space etc. Ibrahim Durrani (Purab Kohli), aide to Ranjit Katyal, is an example of a man, who keeps working for the cause, in spite of his personal loss, whose wife was missing.

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Raja Krishna Menon has brilliantly executed the whole set of events, right from the Iraqi attack to brutal massacre of Kuwaitis to the evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians. Research of Raja in regard to the events reflects in this well-crafted film. The one aspect which was not very convincing was that there was only one officer in the Minister of External Affairs- Sanjeev  Kohli (Kumud Mishra), who keeps convincing Indian administration to send help for the stranded Indians in Kuwait. But definitely Kumud Mishra stood apart as a great actor in his role. His persistence is commendable.

Akshay Kumar has proved over the years that he can effortlessly play such roles. He is so natural in Ranjit’s character. It is a delight to watch him. Credit also goes to Raja and his team for shaping up Ranjit’s character in a natural manner. He is not projected as a hero, but he is projected as a normal human being, who just thinks of his family, business, and profits, but in the moment of crisis, grows beyond his own self-interest, and turns out to be the saviour for 1,70,000 Indians.

Nimrat Kaur was excellent in ‘The Lunchbox’. So, definitely, expectations from her were also high. Nimrat did not have much to do in the film. Her potential could have been explored more.

Inaamulhaq plays the role of Major Khalaf Bin Zayd very well. Actors who formed the part of the refugee Indians did play their roles wonderfully.

A few scenes which touched my heart: Sanjeev Kohli’s father (Arun Bali), who was a partition refugee, shares with him that how painful it was to leave everything behind in Lahore, and what the loss of homeland could mean to an individual. Another scene - Amrita Katyal’s confrontation with one of the Indian in the refugee camp George Kutty (Prakash Belawadi). Amrita is generally shown to be not-so-happy with Ranjit’s decision to save Indians, but when the irritable George Kutty raised questions, she confronted George Kutty and stood with Ranjit. Of course the scene towards the end of the film, where Indian Flag captures the screen. There are a few other scenes, but not mentioning them here since those are to be watched on screen.

The songs – ‘Tanu main itna pyar kara… Soch na sake…’(composed by Amaal Malik, sung by Arijit Singh) and ‘Tu Bhoola jise, tujhko vo yaad karta raha…’ (composed by Amaal Malik, sung by KK)  are just awesome. Amaal Malik’s music is indeed very good. Ankit Tiwari has given music for ‘Dil Cheez tujhe…’.

Many parts of the film are shot at Ras Al Khaima (UAE) which has been very nicely captured by Priya Seth’s cinematography.

Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a tribute to the human spirits which finds path even amidst turbulence, gathers courage in spite of losing everything. A must watch film which showcases one of the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in the history of mankind. Grand Salute to all those unsung heroes who were instrumental for this.

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)