The very real story of an ordinary man being pushed to heroism
Directed by: Raja Krishna Menon
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli
What’s It About:
Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift isn’t about a true story; it’s based on true events. This is a term most commonly used in Hollywood – when some aspect of a real incident is taken and then padded with fiction so that the film could be positioned as a ‘true’ story. Airlift too, as revealed to us by its makers in the beginning and end of the film, falls in the same format. Loaded with fictional characters and circumstances, Airlift therefore, falls into the realm of a regular drama/thriller, with a few real-life references. Ranjeet Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) is an ambitious, go-getter Indian settled in Kuwait with his wife (Nimrat Kaur) and child. He has no love for his country (not even its music); in fact Ranjeet considers himself a Kuwaiti. But when Saddam Hussain invades Kuwait leading to panic and pandemonium, everything changes. Ranjeet, with his wealthy background, has the option of leaving the country with his family. A sense of responsibility dawns over him when his own employees look at him for help and Ranjeet refuses to abandon them. More distraught Indians join them as Ranjeet sets up a transit camp for them all. How he helps bringing back 170,000 people back to India forms the crux of the rest of the film.
If Airlift were entirely a true story, there would be no room for complaints simply because you cannot alter the screenplay of real events. But when so much of fiction had to be added anyway, why couldn’t that fiction be more gripping and dramatic? Director Raja Menon maintains the same momentum throughout the film. Even where there’s a chance to accelerate the high, he underplays it. That’s why the roar of patriotic fervour is somehow missing in this film. The climax is tame and leaves you a bit confused. Air India flights came to Jordan and evacuated all the Indians. But Jordan was always a safe zone. Air India flew a number of flights for the job and made it the biggest evacuation. But there’s no Argo in this if you’re looking for one. Menon’s choice of character actors also leaves one disappointed. Inamulhaq as the Iraqi major is more of a clown. Why would you trivialise your main negative character, especially when you have fictionalised it? Nimrat Kaur looks misplaced and out of sync. Airlift also needed a mature producer who would not burden it with unnecessary songs (a couple of them make you gasp in embarrassment as Katiyal starts doing a jig) and ruin the film’s credibility factor.
What To Do:
A spirited effort and Akshay Kumar’s performance are the high points of Airlift.