Directed by: Ram Madhvani
Produced by: Atul Kasbekar, Shanti Sivaram Maini, Bling Unplugged and Fox Star Studios
Written by: Saiwyn Quadras, Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh (dialogues)
Screenplay by: Saiwyn Quadras
Based on: Neerja Bhanot
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Shekhar Ravjiani
Music by: Vishal Khurana
Cinematography: Mitesh Mirchandani
Edited by: Monisha R Baldawa
Production company: Fox Star Studios
Distributed by: Fox Star Studios
Release dates: February 19, 2016
The film is based on the life of Neerja Bhanot who was shot dead by terrorists who hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi on 5 September 1986. Bhanot was the senior flight purser on the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73 flying from Mumbai to the USA, which was hijacked by four armed men on 5 September 1986 at Karachi airport in Pakistan. The aircraft was carrying 400 passengers. The terrorist wanted to redirect the plane, Israel and crash it into a building. As the plane was on the tarmac, the three-member American cockpit crew of pilot, co-pilot and the flight engineer evacuated the aircraft per their training so that the aircraft could not be forcibly flown. Bhanot, being the most senior cabin crew member aboard, took charge. After the terrorists boarded the plane, Neerja alerted the cockpit crew, who escaped through an overhead hatch in the cockpit.
The hijackers were part of the terrorist Abu Nidal Organization and were backed by Libya. The terrorists then instructed Bhanot to collect the passports of all the passengers so that they could identify the Americans. Bhanot and the other attendants under her charge hid the passports of the 41 Americans on board; some under a seat and the rest down a rubbish chute. They wanted to create a pressure on America by identifying the American on the aircraft. She hid the passports of the passengers on the flight so that the hijackers could not differentiate between American and Non-American citizens.
After 17 hours, the hijackers opened fire and set off explosives. Bhanot opened the emergency door, flung a chute and assisted all the passengers to escape. She could have been the first to jump out when she opened the door but she decided not to and was shot while shielding three children from a hail of bullets. From a total of 41 American passengers, only 2 were killed during firing. One of the children, then aged 7, is now a captain for a major airline and has stated that Neerja Bhanot has been his inspiration and he owes every day of his life to her. Bhanot was recognized internationally as “the heroine of the hijack” and is the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra Award, India’s most prestigious gallantry award for bravery during peace time.
This incidence happened just two days before her twenty-third birthday. Not only had she assured the failure of the hijacking by preventing the plane from getting off the ground, she also saved the lives of hostages in those long hours of incarceration.
Know more about the captain of the Ship, the director:
Ram Madhvani is an Indian film director from Mumbai best known for directing several award-winning commercials in India. With over 20 years of experience in the profession Ram Madhvani has worked with every important advertising agency in the country to become one of India’s most respected filmmakers. In recognition of his talent and for his contributions to advertising Ram has been honoured with the Teachers Achievement Award (2004–2005). Ram has also made his mark as a director outside of advertising. His debut feature film Let’s Talk premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. It then went on to win the Screen “Best Actor” award and “Best Debut Director” at the Srinivas Gollapudi National Awards. In 2007, Aamir Khan asked Ram to direct the “Bheja kum” song for his film Taare Zameen Par. In 2012, Ram was again approached by Aamir Khan to direct the official theme song video for his TV series Satyamev Jayate.
My Gut Feel and comments:
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. As I saw the trailer of Neerja and done some research around the filming process of Neerja I found this quote relevant. As it’s seems to be a honest and sincere effort from the complete creative team starting from the writers Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh, first time producer Atul Kasbekar, the director Ram Madhvani and complete the cast and supporting crew of this movie. Both Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi seem brilliant in their respective roles. It required wisdom to make a biopic and doing justice to a sensitive story and I am confident that Ram Madhvani did managed to do it. Ram is renowned advertisement maker and had also directed a Hinglish movie Let’s talk more than a decade ago. In case of Neerja he used all his experience and surely done justice to this wonderful story. I for see a good movie which has a potential to move heart and soul and will surely get its due at box office as well and will not go unnoticed. Fox Star Studios put sincere effort in marketing the film which surely made it reachable to larger audience which will benefit the movie eventually.
Going by my gut feeling I am giving Neerja 3.5 stars out of 5, one day before the release.