It is always a challenge to play out a bio pic in a movie format. The balance of being true to the narrative and to have filmy drama also, can always go hey wire in the hand of wrong writing or direction. But director Ram Madhvani, with his second film, comes up trumps backed by some very good writing by Saiwyn Qadras. He opts to show the events in an restrained dramatic flair playing out the big emotional moments off the action in the plane and thereby giving a nice wrap to the whole thing.
Neerja is an extremely tense movie from the word go. At the beginning of the movie, the director juxtapositions the Neerja’s preparations with the terrorists preparation and then goes on to hyperlink her past with her present thereby showing where does she draw her immense courage and presence of mind from. This smart usage of hyperlinking is really what makes the movie stand out. Instead of opting for a more conventional route of a voice-over of Neerja’s mind or making her parents spout words of strength about her.
The entire drama is almost entirely played out in the claustrophobic environment of an aircraft and the brilliant production design, ambient noises and an excellent background score make you completely immersed in the narrative, never taking your eyes off the proceedings. The Birdman keeda inside me wishes that the director had opted for some long takes though. Especially if the entire sequence of the terrorists boarding the plane sequence were played out in one long take, the tension and the chills would have been immense. But that’s neither here not there.
Sonam Kapoor delivers a good performance as Neerja Bhanot and excellent acting by a plethora of supporting start cast really gets the film going. But it is Shabana Azmi’s performance which really stands out. The movie would not have had the effective punch if it wasn’t for her portrayal of Neerja’s mom. Along with her performance, the enactment of a psychotic terrorist by Jim Sarbh is superlative. He is a revelation here.
Overall, this would a highly recommended movie which has to be watched with a bunch of tissues kept handy.