Director : Raja Menon
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Kumud Mishra, Inaamulhaq, Prakash Belawadi, Purab Kohli
488 flights, 59 days, 1,70,000 Indians, airlifted from Kuwait as Saddam’s forces took over the desert nation, in the world’s largest evacuation till dat. Airlift is based on the true story of this historical event.
The story that was on its own is an inspiring one, with a strong emotional connect, is re-told with conviction and superbly by Raja Menon. The challenge in making a good thriller, with a race against time telling, based on a story that is already well documented, the outcome known, is immense, and this is where the victory of Airlift lies.
A strong script, some well penned dialogues, humour in the least expected situations, make Airlift a compelling watch. The film never loses focus, the linear telling only adding to the thrill, building up to an almost nail biting finale. All comparisons with Argo dissolve in the background as this emotional and full of twists and turns film unfolds.
The ace being Akshay Kumar. The khiladi shows his acting chops in Airlift. Genuine, vulnerable, strong, letting his eyes perform in many a moments, Akshay is the hero of Airlift in all senses. This is to me his finest performance to date, an actor who has quietly matured, despite doing the “It’s Entertainment” and “Housefull” brand of films, honing his skills in Special 26 and in Baby to an extent, we see a new Akshay, who in his salt and pepper beard and a lithe body becomes Ranjit Katyal.
A billionaire settled in Kuwait, proud of being a Kuwaiti rather than an Indian. His marriage with Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) is not all hunky dory, but he dotes on his little daughter. His secure and snob life comes crashing down as Iraqi tanks bombard Kuwait. A man driven by money, decides to leave with his family, but is then faced by the moral dilemma…can he just up and leave his workers and their families behind? How a self-centred businessman changes himself and the fate of the thousands of Indians stuck in a foreign county under siege is the story of Airlift.
The film touches upon the government apathy and the political snafus when faced with a situation like this, the reality of living in a foreign country which you make your home, but where you never belong, as you are always the outsider, in this case being Indians actually helped them survive the Iraqi attack. Airlift has its “Bollywood” moments, patriotism hitting the notes as the Tiranga unfolds in the climax, a song and dance routine in middle of mayhem, but the good bits overshadow the small detours.
Excellent casting of supporting characters, Nimrat is extremely believable and gives a steller performance as Katyal's wife, changing from an entitled and largely bored wife to a woman who stands besides her man and discovers his mettle, Kumud Mishra as the “Babu” is pitch perfect and in such a fine form. Prakash Belawadi has got the irritating, greying, whining Mallu Uncle just right. There was a moment when the entire theatre went “Abbe chup kar” as he complains to Ranjit Katyal about the lack of Discipline in the refugee camp.
Recreating the 90's and an under siege Kuwait was no mean feat which Menon achieved well. Eye for detailing, from the Madhuri superhit in the opening to Katyal fixing a cassette with a pencil, full marks there too.
Though dogged by forced songs and the miscasting of Inaamulhaq as the Iraqi general in control of Kuwait, Airlift is a film I thoroughly enjoyed. With the audiences becoming more open to real life stories being dramatized, Talvar being the one before this and Neerja coming up next, I "Welcome" this Akshay starrer.
Special mention, kickass camerawork by Priya Seth and sharp editing by Hemanti Sarkar. The music, well nothing to talk about really.
Go and watch, totally paisa wasool.
My verdict 3/5