Airlift Movie Review

He’s a multimillionaire NRI striking business deals with Arab Sheikhs in the day while cavorting with belly dancers to remixed tune of Khaled’s “Didi” at night. Considering himself more Kuwaiti than a Hindustani, life’s all bliss for Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) and his family (Nimrat Kaur and anonymous beti) till Saddam Hussein decides to spoil his party. The Iraq invasion of Kuwait renders 170,000 Indians homeless and Katyal, transforming into a sudden desh premee after witnessing a killing of his staff, takes it upon himself to fend for them and safely send them back to swades.

Director Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift recounts the true story of the largest evacuation in the history of mankind where 170,000 Indian refugees were brought back to India by flying close to 500 Air India flights to Amman in Jordan – a sorta Indian ‘Argo’ (2012). While Menon had a terrific story to tell, his screenplay fails to grip you in the way it should. Evidently, some scenes of potential tense drama are frittered away leaving them quite bland and ineffective (like the attempted escape at the shipyard). Strictly by comparison, ‘Argo’ and even the fictional ‘Baby’ (2014) were far more impactful and edge of seat.

On the tech front, the locations have an authentic feel and the cinematography (Priya Seth) is first rate. Certain shots like the minar reflecting on a car door glass are wonderful. The songs (Amaal Mallik – Ankit Trivedi) ain’t bad but have no place to be in this war thriller acting as speed breakers to the narrative. It’s high time Bollywood directors realise the futility of inserting songs in unnatural situations (Ever heard of starving refugees breaking into a jig)!!! Certain aspects like how the clogs in the Government machinery moved to get Air India fly and who convinced the unwilling pilots to drive into a war zone deserved more screen time. Also, only one bureaucrat in the Ministry of External Affairs (Kumud Mishra) is shown pulling all the strings which doesn’t look entirely convincing.

On the acting front, the film has a line of ensemble characters and they do reasonably well. Prakash Belawadi as the irritable refugee is a standout. So is Kumud Mishra. Nimrat Kaur gets one important confrontation scene and nails it. But overall, her performance doesn’t come close to the benchmark she set for herself in ‘The Lunchbox’ (2013).

Towering above all is Akshay Kumar, delivering a restrained yet powerful performance. As an actor, the Khiladi star showed immense maturity and range in taking on such unconventional roles (after ‘Special 26’, ‘Baby’) while letting his hair down once in awhile (‘Singh is Bling’, ‘Gabbar…’). Quite a remarkable achievement where some of his peers of late, have become victims of their own image!! Indeed, Akshay lifts Airlift to an altogether different level despite all its inconsistencies….you are advised a family viewing just for him!

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About The Author

Sumeet Nadkarni A Chartered Accountant by Profession. A Self-Styled Film Critic by Passion

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