I was less than blown away by how Neerja began. The disclaimer is well – a product of the times we live in I guess. I thought the society party in Mumbai they showed seemed more like 1996 than 1986. Thought the proud, affectionate and super-protective parents part in the first 15 odd minutes was overdone. The love angle seemed a bit – well jarring. Rajesh Khanna seemed shoved down our throats. And the scenes in Pakistan seemed like a Control C + Control V from one of the thousand odd Hollywood + Bollywood movies referencing terror since Islamic terrorism has become a peripheral figure in the modern world.
Having said that, these scenes do set the context for the next bit of the movie. And once the flight takes off the movie has you hooked. I loved the fact that there was nothing outrageously unrealistic (well, except for those couple of scenes where gun-toting nutcases agree to allow you the freedom to ‘farz nibhaana’ because you spoke to them sternly, but I’m nitpicking already). The flashback scenes with the abusive husband – never over the top – more is said by showing less. The quick unfolding of the drama, the sincere yet botched attempts at negotiation with the terrorists, the dynamics of the terrorists themselves, the way the family reacts at home – all fit in with each other, adding to the core storyline without excessively masalo-fying it. The denoument at the end was a bit confusing and sudden, but that’s probably true in itself.
The much maligned Sonam Kapoor is really good wherever she doesn’t have to overdo the histrionics. She looks, seems and fits into the composed airhostess mode like Cinderella’s lost slipper. One of the villain’s – the one who goes a bit loco – really stands out. And Shabhana Azmi – wow – now I know why that reputation is what it is. Loved the father and the two brothers as well – small but really well played roles (and the Hindustan Times office of 1986 – felt that felt perfectly as it would in that time). The length at a pinch over 2 hours seems just right as well.
If a movie is to be rated by how much it moved you, Neerja would squeeze every star out of every reviewer in the country. I personally can’t ever recall at have ever shed so many tears in a movie hall (OK – sobbed a bit too!). Sure the team has milked these scenes to a maximum (the speech at the end for one), but they never felt overcooked and they were very very impactful. And a couple of songs which will be remembered way way beyond 2016.
Some minor nitpicking aside, another great watch. The fact that it’s based on a real story despite shifty disclaimers, is only a fitting cherry on the tribute cake. A solid 4 stars here – just try to not sniff your way out of this one.