Yes, Bollywood has been (and will be) minting out senseless, melodramatic, over-the-top films which do cross the 100 crore mark with utter ease. There’s no shred of doubt in the efficacy with which Bollywood can ‘remake’ Southern hits. But, in the past few years, a gradual shift in the stories being churned out by this film industry has been observed. Most of these unconventional stories also turn out to be ‘Hit’ films, mind you! Bollywood is slowly learning to deal with and slowly excel in producing challenging stories; a few sensible movies made in the last 10 years exemplifythis fact. ‘Airlift’ was a movie inspired and dedicated to the Operations conducted for the largest civilian evacuation in the history of the world, for Indians stuck in the war-torn Kuwait. Yes, it was a magnanimous effort by the real-life heroes (that are born from unlikely people in exceptional circumstances), and yes, the movie did justice in describing the intricacies of the successful evacuation.
The movie begins with the eve of the Saddam Hussein’s ordered invasion of Iraq. Within the first few minutes, the protagonist, his family and his principles are bared before the audience to make their own judgements. The business tycoon played by the immensely-talented Akshay Kumar is a business man at heart; he cares mostly about making a huge profit, advocates against friendship mingling with business, hardly interacts with non-influential people around him and owes Kuwait his success and therefore his allegiance. He barely touches his lost Indian roots and scoffs at people who still desire to be connected with their motherland. His mean, calculative nature undergoes a slow transition induced overnight after the Iraqi troops invade Kuwait city on 2 August 1990. In fact, shouting out his Identity (he so often mocked) saves his ass in the first encounter with the Iraqis. Losing his driver to the young, mindless force sent by Saddam, the fear of losing his family to the war, and the trust placed on him by his company employees and their friends, relatives arouse his sense of responsibility. With a few close friends, he works tirelessly to secure the lives of the 1.5 million Indians stranded in the no-man’s land. His efforts, his fights with the Iraqi military, his attempts to seek help from the Indian Government, his successes, his failures are beautifully woven in this story. The story and the pace are highly realistic, so is the plight of the refugees shown in the movie. The movie sags and becomes repetitive in between, but within few scenes it catches up. The supporting characters are ably developed into believable entities that help the protagonist in achieving what he set out to- Ibrahim, George, Joseph, Kurien, Kohli and Nair deserve special mention.
There is no doubt about the ensemble featuring in the movie. Akshay Kumar is at his best; his arrogance and indifference, his sorrow and empathy and his leadership distinctly visible in his fine acting. I cannot think of anyone better suited to play the protagonist in the movie. With well-etched characters, the supporting cast has also done a commendable job in holding the movie together. Purab Kohli as the silent and purposeful Ibrahim comes as a pleasant surprise. The simplicity of Kumud Mishra adds a charm to his character as the Indian bureaucrat who single-handedly manages the evacuation from India. Nimrat Kaur plays the typical Indian house-wife (in Kuwait) of a business tycoon, always cynical of his husband’s brave heroics and constantly nagging him for shirking his duties towards his family in the first-half of the movie. Although realistic, it does tend to get to your nerves, you dread the same lousy skeptical dialogues every time she opens her mouth. Post interval, some sense miraculously enters her and acts with finesse are delivered by one of the most-talented new entrants in B’wood. Barring the interspersed songs (and the uncalled-for Arabic dance) and some few lagging moments, the movie was a real treat for the viewers.
Some claim that the movie did not give its rightful due to people actually involved in the Operation in 1990. The task of several Samaritans was bundled onto the shoulders of a single character, the concerned officials hardly received recognition in the movie and so on. However, as the essence of the Operation was aptly dealt with, with minor changes here and there, the movie definitely deserves to be lauded. Also realistic was the fact that the major officials walked away with the credit after the successful operation rather than the workers at the grass-root level who made it possible. Wholly relatable!!
Almost full marks to the director and the writer for this achievement called Airlift. The movie turned out to be as wonderful and engaging as the trailers promised. It may not be an ‘Argo’, but ‘Airlift’ has surely made Bollywood proud!
A perfect watch for the Republic week celebrations!! Go feel patriotic in a special way!
Aditi’s rating: 4/5 stars