Movie Review: Neerja

Is the new Sonam Kapoor film a perfect homage to the braveheart that was Neerja Bhanot? Read what City 1016's Lokesh Dharmani has to say
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Movie Review: Neerja
A still from Neerja

Sonam Kapoor

Read more about Sonam Kapoor

DIRECTOR: Ram Madhvani
STARRING: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravjiani
RATING: 3.5 stars (bordering 4 stars. Okay 4 only. Okay don’t have too many expectations. Just watch it.) 

I bawled my eyes out both at the tearjerker of a climax and see Sonam struggle with the character. I don't want to be mean, but she is indeed the weakest link of Neerja. To give her due credit, she is extremely earnest and tries hard. Alas, tries really hard.

Despite that it's such a pleasure to see filmmakers pull out interesting, inspiring human stories rather than numbing our minds with DOONNNTTTT-ANNGRYYY-MEEEE-EASY-100CRORES-REHASH-TRASH!!!!!

The film, right from the first (though a long one) scene, takes us into the world of Neerja --- her family, dog all pottering about a cozy house of the eighties with the stereo system adorning the head bed, the black monster of the landline tring-tringing. They have even got the vinyl chip flooring right.

I like how there was a beautiful contrast between Neerja's parents: her father is reserved, realistic and her source of strength and her mother is vocal, hopeful and less empathetic. Yogendar Tikku beautifully expresses the dilemma of a father with just a 'Hmm' or an 'Okay' and other such monosyllables (He really has become the father of the season: Kangana’s in Queen, Sonam’s in Neerja and SRK’s in Fan.) The film falters a bit, especially when Shabana Azmi pulls a K3G Jaya Bachchan on us with,‘Haye mera jee khabra raha hain’, magically sensing danger when the plane is hijacked. First, it’s a sudden deviation for her character; secondly, the sad song that comes from nowhere breaks the edgy pace of the film.

Speaking of edgy, I sat on the edge of my seat with my teeth coming handy as a nailcutter as the terrorists hijack the plane. Ram Madhavani directs it so well that it creates the required tension. The performances by the men who play hijackers is so convincing that you feel someone kicked you in the stomach when they beat around the passengers in the plane. Especially the guy who plays the hot-headed Khalil (someone please tell me his real name) evokes fear with his eyes and reminds you of the Mahat M Ali who played the hijacker in Captain Phillips.

What I particularly liked about the film was how the director has tried to internalise fear and strength in Neerja’s character. There is a back story of her personal struggle that’s beautifully patched with the crisis on the plane as it gives her enough strength to tackle the situation. Also, there is no melodrama, no Neerja bani Ninja jazz. Her heroism lies in simple things and quick thinking.

 The film does have a couple of flaws. It tends to get a bit slow and manipulative in between. But these are small hiccups in a film that besides telling an inspiring, fearless story briefly comments on the need to bring up our daughters as fearlessly as we bring up our sons. Shabana Azmi nails it in that last scene.

I walked out with moist eyes and a lump in my throat, and that’s saying a lot.

 

WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN:

5 stars: Loved it. (This could make to top ten movies you must watch before you die!) 
4 stars: Liked it. Recommend it. (This will help you sound intellectual and give you stuff to add at water cooler conversations.)
3 stars: Didn’t hurt. Watch it once. 
2 stars: It put me to sleep. Watch it if you are an insomniac or a newly wedded couple. Winks!
1 star: Do I even need to explain this?

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