Cast:Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Prakash Belavadi, Purab Kohli, Inaamulhaq
Direction: Raja Krishna Menon
Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur’s Airlift, directed by Raja Krishna Menon, is a tale of unmatched heroism.
Once in a while, Bollywood reminds you why it can never be written off. That no matter how many commercial, trashy films it bombards us all with, there are times it can rise to the occasion. Like its hero Ranjit Katiyal, Airlift helps Bollywood airlift itself out of the mess it normally resides in. Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a tale of heroism, courage, patriotism, and a lot more. And deserves a standing ovation.
Shrewd businessman Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) walks in circles out of the reach of normal people. He seals deals with the alertness that can put an assassin to shame. And quite like the assassin, Katiyal doesn’t mix business and friendship. This Indian residing in Kuwait cringes when his driver plays Ek-Do-Teen in the car, and promptly gets it replaced with some authentic Arabic tunes, such is his disgust for anything remotely Indian. Ranjit’s relation with wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) displays the strains of time and stress. Their daughter Simu is understandably the glue that keeps these Blue Valentines from parting ways.
On the night of August 1, 1990, the Katiyal couple party together, Ranjit sings his heart out alongside belly dancers and all is well. Except, a few hours later, all turns topsy-turvy in Kuwait City. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invades the country and war is unleashed. The Kuwaiti government deserts the city and Kuwaitis are shot through the head wherever they are seen. Ranjit sees his world crumbling in front of his eyes and goes to the Indian Embassy to try and fly out of this war zone. Whatever meets the eye is either destroyed or on the verge of destruction. Human lives cost less than a dime in this necropolis.
As Ranjit Katiyal, Akshay Kumar delivers an oeuvre-defining performance. Watching the man go from one who not even death can touch to one who is utterly helpless, Kumar displays a range of emotions which he probably keeps reserved for these kind of films. If Baby (2015) was an 8/10 in terms of Akshay’s performance, Airlift has him at 12/10.
Nimrat Kaur throws her lot behind Amrita and proves yet again why she is someone Bollywood should tap every bit from. Her confrontation scene with Prakash Belavadi leaves one speechless. Belavadi, on his part, is fabulous as the irritable, always-complaining old man George. Purab Kohli strikes the right notes with his Ibrahim. Filmistaan star Inaamulhaq’s Major Khalaf Bin Zayd is at once subtly menacing and somewhat pity-evoking.
Raja Krishna Menon’s tale of the largest evacuation in the history of the world is gritty, edge-of-the-seat and heart-stopping. There are moments in the film which actually catch you so off guard, you have your heart in your mouth. The research that has gone in into the creation of Airlift is visible in every frame. Menon resurrects the Kuwait of 1990 and how!
However, despite all the brilliance, the last bit of the film looks hurried. It is almost like the filmmaker too couldn’t wait to finish the film and get home, just like all those Kuwaiti-Indian refugees.
In all, Airlift is the story of unparalleled courage and unsung heroes. From unknown names in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to people who had their Indianness rearing its head from within just when it was required, Airlift is un-miss-able.
Go watch it…..