Director Ram Madhvani brings a story on the silver screen 30 years after it happened. The highest Indian award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra, was given to Neerja Bhanot, who saved over 300 lives on a PAN AM aircraft which was hijacked in 1986, with the help of her crew. The film is a dramatisation of the event.
Sonam Kapoor works in the title role purely because she is supported so well by a gifted cast. She gives a sincere, strong and under-stated performance with sparks of brilliance and realism.
The film is as much Sonam’s as it is Jim Sarbh’s, a theatre actor who plays one of the menacing hijackers. He is unpredictable, unforgiving and truly terrifying. The other hijackers show us the varying differences between people and personalities who would take up such a mission.
Shabana Azmi as Neerja’s mother is a typical Punjabi woman in the 80s, who dotes on her daughter and tries her best to deal with her own trauma. Neerja’s father instills independent and fair values in her, while her brothers adore her.
Shekhar Ravjiani makes a special appearance as the man who likes Neerja. The film is cast heavy with dozens of actors playing passengers, airport staff, her neighbours, crew etc. They have recreated a tricky era well, getting nuances and details right for the most part.
The film is taut, with a riveting plot, crisp editing and appropriate tension. It pays homage to one of our heroes at the tender age of 23 and is a pure ensemble effort.