Airlift helmed by Raja Krishna Menon portrays the incongruity of over 1.70 lac Indians stranded in Kuwait during 1990 and their evacuation in the most realistic, entertaining and thrilling manner making it a great watch. Airlift narrates a story which needed to be told. After all, its the story about the world's largest civilian evacuation till date which was done by India. It was in August 1990 that Saddam's army took control of Kuwait and unleashed a reign of terror. There were around 1.70 lac Indians living in Kuwait at that time who found themselves stranded in most averse situation. During those turbulent times, one person who selflessly made a difference with his efforts to get all the Indians safely was Ranjit Katiyal. Ranjeet who was a proud Kuwaiti and successful businessman saw his world tumbling in one day when Saddam's forced invaded Kuwait. He could have easily left Kuwait with his family but he chose to wait and stay there to help all fellow Indians stranded there. And, one person, who takes Airlift several notches higher with his impeccable act is Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katiyal. Akshay exemplary portrays the character of a real life hero, a hero whose conscience gets awakened during the most troubled times. Most importantly, Airlift tells us that with unswerving ascendancy and attenuate virility, how a hero is concoction of the troubles that humanity be bequeathed from its shortcomings. I would like to applaud the makers for choosing this story so that cinegoers come to know about this incident which never got a mention in our history books as average Indian including me was completely unaware about this world's largest civilian evacuation done by Indian Government. More than 500 planes were flown over war zone area by Air India to safely evacuate 1.70 lac Indians. And, most importantly, it tells us the story of a unsung real life heroes like Ranjit Katiyal who risked their everything just for the sake of their fellow-Indians. Since this is a realistic movie, so, in the end Airlift tells us that there were two commendable emigrants namely Mr Matthews and Mr. Vedi who were the masterminds behind this rescue operation and that both of them were amalgamated into Akshay's character.
The story of Airlift has been penned down by Raja Krishna Menon and the credit for writing the screenplay of the movie goes to Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia and Ritesh Shah. The writers have audaciously woven a tale with layers of human emotions with select personal stories without going over the top. There is no exaggeration, excessive melodrama or playing to the galleries and this the biggest USP of Airlift. It is the story of a man whose conscious and heroism gets awakened in the gravest situation. The film's opening scene begins a day before the invasion where Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) is clinching a business deal in Kuwait. He likes to be known as a Kuwaiti instead of Indian and prefers Arabic music over Indian music. He is a shrewd businessman who is living a luxurious life with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and his young daughter. His world comes tumbling down when Iraq invades Kuwait on August 2,1990. As Ranjeet moves out of his home, his car is stopped by forces and his driver is gunned down in front of his eyes. Fortunately for Katiyal, a convoy of Iraqi Major Zayd (Inaamul Haq) is passing by at that moment who recognizes Katiyal and his life is saved. Major Zayd offers free passage to Ranjit Katiyal and his family in lieu of huge money. Just when Ranjit is planning to leave the country with his family, he finds several of his employees stranded in his office with a sense of security around him. It is at that moment, the selfish businessman Ranjit gets transformed and decides that he won't leave the country until all the fellow Indians are evacuated safely. He with the help of his rich friends organizes a camp for 1.7 Lac Indians. The rest of the film portrays how Ranjit tries to use all his contacts and negotiating skills for the safe evacuation of all Indians from the dire situation.
Akshay Kumar has come a long way as an actor since his Khiladi days and his impeccable act in Airlift is a testament to that. Undeniably, Akshay is the soul of Airlift as with his powerful act he literally owns the screen in the movie. There is a virile vividness about Akshay's character in the movie (who is both strong and vulnerable) which Akshay has captured brilliantly. The ease with which Akshay has portrayed his subtle transformation from a selfish business tycoon to a humbled refugee with a mission to save lacs of people around him is commendable. There are several scenes in the movie where Akshay simply talks with his expressions rather than words like the scene where his driver is killed in front of him or the scene where he goes to fetch the wife and daughter of his slain driver. You can watch the transition in his body language with passing time when no Government help arrives. Akshay is simply OUSTANDING in the movie.
Nimrat Kaur who was last scene in critically acclaimed Lunchbox is a scene stealer in the movie. Nimrat also gets to portray a complex character in the movie as she is a disgruntled wife albeit for different reasons as the movie progresses. As the movie opens, she is angry with her husband because she she feels he is a self-centered business tycoon but later she is miffed over him because now the same self-centered man decides to be a messiah for other stranded Indians ignoring the choice of leaving the country with his family. Nimrat ably portrays myriad emotions in the movie. Her act is a treat to watch in the scene where confronts cantankerous whining man portrayed by Prakash Belawadi.
Inaamul Haq who gets to portray a major character in a movie after Filmistan is spot-on in the movie. As the greedy and sinister Iraqi Major, Inaamul has nailed his character to perfection. His expressions, dialect and penchant for Amitabh Bachchan is a treat to watch in Airlift. Inaamul provides quite a comic relief in the movie with his delightful act.
Feryna Wazheir shines and makes her presence felt with her subtle yet powerful act as Tasneem in Airlift.
Purab Kohli has enacted the character of Ibrahim Durrani with utmost conviction in Airlift. Purab has ably essayed the character of a man who helps Akshay in his mission whilst he is also trying to locate his missing fiancee. Prakash Belawadi stands out as the cantankerous old man who is always whining about one issue or other. Kumud Mishra shines with his typical Babu act in Ministry Of External Affairs who puts in sincere efforts for the evacuation of stranded Indians.
The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Amaal Mallik & Ankit Tiwari is ear pleasing. The cinematographer of the movie is Priya Seth who has not only ably captured the devastated city swaddled with fear but also the fractured souls of characters in the movie. Priya's framing of desert sequences lends a unique texture to Airlift. The movie has been edited by Hemanti Sarkar who has kept the run-time of the movie to 124 minutes. As writer-director, Raja Krishna Menon has kept things as close to reality as possible which is applause worthy. Raja has made honest efforts to give the film a docu drama feel which is evident throughout the movie. He has devoid the movie of any over dramatized situations or exaggerated flourishes which heavily works in favor of the movie. Raja Krishna Menon has packaged the movie in such precise and unapologetic way that we get the feeling of being there during the time of the action.
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