As everyone knows, Neerja is based on the brave airhostess who lost her life saving many others during the unforgettable Pan Am hijacking of 1986. When it comes to hijacking dramas, the first and the best film that comes to my mind is United 93, a terrifying drama set on the only flight that crashed on an empty paddock during the infamous 9/11 attacks. As far as I can remember, Bollywood's last attempt in this genre was the mediocre Shiny Ahuja film, Hijack. So it was with some trepidation that I went to watch Neerja, but in the end, I was simply bowled over!
The biggest positive I can say about the film, and I would want to say right at the start itself, the film never lets down the spirit of Neerja Bhanot. While Bollywood biopics have the tendency to put masala in stories of real life personalities, Neerja thankfully avoids that! If Neerja was a hero in real life, Ram Madhvani is the real hero of the film. It is to his credit that he has made such a compelling drama that will keep you on the edge of your seats. The entire hijacking situation is so brilliantly shot that you feel that you are a part of the life threatening drama. The tension you feel in the scenes are palpable, especially when the terrorists realise there is no hope for them and they become reckless. The docu style camera work heightens the sense of claustrophobia in you. The background score is tense and brilliantly done. But where Ram Madhvani actually scores is how he shot the final moments of Neerja's sacrifice â€“ intense yet emotionally wrought. If those scenes don't bring tears from your eyes, your heart is definitely made of stone. Another thing that worked for the film is the casting. From the main leads to even the supporting ones, everyone has done Justice to their roles. The makers must be lauded for choosing relative new comers in the other roles, as it works in creating a sense of realism. The actors playing the terrorists totally look their part, especially the one playing Khalil. But the film would not have been what it is, if it was not for the film's main leads. Despite her limitations (her voice is still not so easy to adjust), Sonam is the heart and soul of the film. This is a role that she can show her detractors and ask them to just shut up! She is terrific, especially in the second half, where her eyes speak a lot, of fear, of courage. Shabana Azmi is great, as always and her final speech will definitely make you cry if you haven't started yet. Yogendra Tiku, who plays Sonam's father in the film, is another actor to look out for. In his debut film, composer Shekhar Ravjiani is pretty likable in his small role. Also, if a scene or two would have shown about how the Indian Government reacted to the situation, it would have been great.
Neerja's last words to her mother in the film is a famous Rajesh Khanna dialogue about Pushpa and her tears! Even though I hate them a lot, you just can't leave the hall with dry eyes! Aamir, you have more company in the crying club.
Go watch one of the best Hindi films made in recent times ASAP!