Before I’m going to explore about ‘Neerja’, I really want to know the real name of one of the hijackers: Khalil. Such a superbly acted headstrong scoundrel who fires fear with the scathing stare from his narcotic eyes, he reminds me of Elmi from Tom Hanks‘ ‘Captain Philips’. And even the other terrorists who hijack the plane act so aptly that somebody suddenly bends your shoulder and knocks your back hard while they hurt passengers around.
‘Neerja’ is a pestige-festooned true tale of a lionhearted air hostess from India. It has moments of heartbreaking poignancy, but it’s also nearly suffocated by its own nobility.
Right from the start, although the first scene is a long one, drives us into the sphere of Neerja: a comfy 80’s home with the vinyl chip epoxy flooring, the stereophonic system bejeweled the double cot bed-head, the squeaky ringing black behemoth of landline telephone, and there’s a cute dog too tootling all around. This is where she happily lives with her family.
Her father is quiet, practical and encouraging. Her mother is outspoken, optimistic and little caring. Yogendar Tikku is so cutesy in exhibiting a father’s difficulty with monosyllabic sounds like ‘hmm’, ‘ok’ etc. The way they wrote the antithesis between Neerja‘s parents is pretty good. The film is a bit flawed too: when the plane is hijacked, Shabana Azmi supernaturally sensing the danger is sort of strange because it’s quite opposite to her nature. Also when I sat on the edge of my seat, biting my nails and fearing as if I was one of the passengers under attack, suddenly a pathetic song is hanged down on screen from the sky, which fractures the tension mood of the film for a little while.
Sonum tried so hard to strike the balance, but she, in fact, is the weak link of the film. It leans down to be slow and manipulative in between. After all, these are little hiccups of an unsparing film made in an inspiring way that honestly portrays an young unsung hero’s triumph even if things go disastrously wrong. Shabana Azmi is glorious in the final scene.
What I mostly liked in the film is to interiorize fear and power in Neerja’s role. And she has a past of self struggle that’s perfectly stitched with the danger in the plane as it regains her hardiness to handle the hardest situation. Luckily there’s no melodrama and her heroic material is laid simple, instant and intelligent. That is where we appreciate director Ram Madhvani and he manages to keep ‘Neerja’ as tight as a vise.
In a nutshell, ‘Neerja’ is an epoch-making tour de force. Walked out with moist eyes and heavy heart as I cried out at the tearjerker of climax that filled my heart full of tears. That’s all I can say.
My Rating: Out of 5, I give 3.5, or maybe 3.75 along with a handkerchief.