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NEERJA - Proudly SALUTING the big hearted brave girl, here we have a realistic, superbly enacted and well directed film minus the avoidable song. (Review By Bobby Sing)
19 Feb, 2016 | Movie Reviews / 2016 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / N

NeerjaIn Hindi it’s said “Der Aaye Durust Aaye” and in English they say, “Its better late than never”, becoming the two perfect phrases explaining the present Hindi film scenario wherein they have finally woken up to make films on inspiring personalities and ‘must-tell’ historical events of the past not known to many, particularly the present generation. In fact, Cinema has a certain responsibility to adapt such subjects as biographies and real life inspired films spreading more awareness in the society. And thankfully our Hindi Cinema is now doing the same (once again) beginning the journey with films such as PAAN SINGH TOMAR to the latest AIRLIFT and NEERJA thoughtfully enlightening their viewers.
Admitting the truth, there were not many expecting much from this film due to various reasons, including a lesser known director calling the shots and Sonam Kapoor playing the lead raising some major doubts. However giving us all a pleasant surprise, its these two names only that deliver way above the expectations in the film and the result is a clear winner well-supported by a towering performance by Shabana Azmi that’s sure to get a unanimous positive response from all sections of audience without any slightest of doubt.
Based on a true, tragic yet inspiring story of Neerja Bhanot - a beautiful 23 years old air hostess who got killed while helping the passengers of PAN AM flight hijacked by Palestinian terrorists at Karachi airport in 1986, the film commences with a shot of Neerja’s real mother giving her blessings to all viewers. And then there is a sweet, cozy sequence of a society’s celebrations where kids, residents and their families are dancing together on their favourite Rajesh Khanna song ‘Bye Bye Miss Goodnight..... Kal Phir Milenge’. The scene makes a noticeable positive impression right away and takes you back in those DJ-less times of the ‘80s, when we used to carry our own ‘self-recorded compilation cassettes’ to such parties, to be played in the host’s tape recorder taking individual turns.
In these early moments of the film we also get to meet Neerja’s Punjabi mother, a loving father, her brothers, a dear friend and more along with exciting intercuts of terrorists making their own plans of hijacking the plane Neerja is going to board the very next morning, just two days before her 23rd birthday. Being familiar with the basic subject of the film, one rightly feels the excitement seeing the buildup being staged before the actual tension begins. And going through these specific sequences, I strongly recalled having a similar feeling while watching THE BURNING TRAIN in the ‘80s, with people from different walks of life boarding the ‘New targeted train’ before the tragedy.
Without spending much time in this necessary build-up, NEERJA straight away comes to the point and we have the plane hijacked by a group of terrorist in the next 5 minutes only beginning the real film full of well shot, engaging content performed by an aptly chosen cast (particularly the ones playing the terrorists with their typical local accent). The excellence thankfully continues post intermission too with many timely insertions of flashbacks revealing the story behind Neerja’s bad-marriage, the much needed support from her parents and a loving proposal coming from her dear friend Shekhar, despite knowing everything about her forgettable past. Especially the way Neerja keeps remembering the spirited lessons given by her father while dealing with the terrorists leaves a decent impact on the viewer and one strongly feels her helpless state amongst the life-threatening tension and violence depicted through the hand-held camera focusing on the confused terrorists not exactly knowing what to do next in their ‘failed’ plan.
NeerjaHowever just when the proceedings are successfully creating a substantial state of fear and anger together, we shockingly get to see the usual, unnecessary insertion of a song and few forced melodramatic scenes too hampering the otherwise superb pace of the film spoiling the magic spell. In true words, it’s in these few moments of the film, when you start asking the big question that, how can one even think of inserting a song at such stage of a tense movie or are we simply unable to conceive a Hindi film without a song even after the so called evolution of our cinema in terms of meaningful subjects?
Anyway this weak part of the film gets over soon and we return back to the excellence as witnessed before with Shabana Azmi conquering the screen as the suffering mother post the death of her brave daughter. And what the veteran artist does in these last 15 minutes of the film is beyond expressing in a few words, simply giving you a lump in the throat and continuously flowing tears in your eyes listening to her emotional concluding speech remembering the brave Neerja.
Having said that, yes with a more emphasis given to the supporting characters in the plane as well as two neighboring governments (the film keeps focusing on Neerja alone on the cost of ignoring these important aspects), avoiding the forced-in song hugely affecting the pace and with a little more investigative details given for the terrorists mission or background, NEERJA could have become a ‘sheer masterpiece’ without any faults as such.
But since the visible plusses of the movie score much more than the above mentioned ignorable minuses, the entire team led by director Ram Madhavani deserves to be given their due credit and NEERJA has to be seen and rated as a near perfect, heartfelt and respectable film made on one of our proud but lesser-known national heroes who was also honoured with Ashok Chakra in India and Tamgha-e-Insaniyat in Pakistan for her rare act of courage posthumously.
Apart from the appreciable cinematography, background score and well-conceived narration within the visual limitation of the subject, what actually takes NEERJA to another level is its performances led by both Sonam and Shabana Azmi together, along with Yogendra Tikku (the father), Shekhar (in a cameo as the friend) and the actors enacting the terrorists so brilliantly. In fact if Sonam wins your heart in the first 45 minutes of the film, Yogendra Tikku does the same in the middly (watch out his stumbling on the phone) and then Shabana simply excels them all in the end (with a subtle Punjabi accent) deserving a loving standing ovation by one and all. Unarguably the best film of Sonam’s entire career till date, this is a project she can be very proud of right till the end and the girl strongly needs to thank her stars for the same as NEERJA is a kind of film every actress always dreams for.
Mentioning the two key names behind the commendable effort brought to screen, it’s a debut production of famous photographer Atul Kasbekar and has been directed by Ram Madhvani who is known for his widely acclaimed advertisements and songs directed for Aamir Khan’s various projects. Still not many would have seen his first venture in English titled LET’S TALK that came way back in 2002 featuring Boman Irani in the lead (when Boman was not a big known name in the industry) and the film was indeed a worth watching take on relationships, I often recommend when someone asks for Indian films on marital relationships in particular. But then why the talented director took a 14 years long exile to make his second film as NEERJA is a question I still don’t have any answer for.
Concluding with another worth noticing point in the film, NEERJA also beautifully describes what CINEMA actually means to most of the Indian cine lovers living all over the world. These are the people (including myself) who not only eat, drink, sleep cinema all the time in their entire life-span like big fanatics, but would even like to DIE with a cinematic vision in the end exactly like the courageous NEERJA remembering a famous film dialogue. We are the film-buffs who just don’t watch films as our regular weekly entertainment but try to learn life too through those 2-3 hours of imagery shown on the screen with poetic lines such as, “Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye Babu Moshaiye ……………., Lambi Nahin”
Thinking about the fearless girl from this filmy angle, Neerja was certainly one of us - the mad, obsessive lovers of Hindi films, who always feel like living in a big housefull theater with many memorable life teaching dialogues constantly echoing in our mind. And I am sure many of the friends here would love to walk away too leaving a similar message for our beloveds saying, “Pushpa…………I hate tears”.
In all, paying my respectable tribute to NEERJA BHANOT with a Big SALUTE, hope the real life story of this daring young martyr inspires the entire present generation going through a difficult phase of forced division in terms of patriotism. But then ending on a lighter, positive note, would like to share the few words said by Neerja’s real mother to Sonam when she went to meet the lady as the lead actress.
And looking at her the proud mother said, “My daughter was prettier”.
Rating : 4 / 5 (Including the additional 0.5 for just Shabana Azmi for her touching finale speech)
(Note : Following the current wave of patriotism, if a person not willing to stand during the National Anthem played in the theaters is considered to be an anti-national, then I would like to say the same for those too who don’t get moist eyes while watching Shabana expressing her pain in the final moments of the film as Neerja's mother.)

Tags : Neerja Film Review by Bobby Sing, Neerja Movie Review by Bobby Sing, Real Life Inspired Hindi films, Must Watch realistic films, New Bollywood Movies Released, New Hindi Films Reviews, New Hindi Movies Reviews, New Hindi Movies Released, New Bollywood Reviews, Bobby Talks Cinema Review, Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com
19 Feb 2016 / Comment ( 2 )
Prakash Bhatia

Hi Bobbyji,
No doubt an excellent film and Sonam's best performance so far.The entire team tops 2016s Bollywood merit list. The great novel, the great play and great film comes through great writing work. It is one of the finest screenplay I have seen after so many years. I don't know the name of the screen play writer because I saw it in Bangalore where the film is being screened with english subtitles as the films titles and subtitles were popping simultaneously making it difficult for 66 winters old eyes. Ofcourse Shabanaji showed her class in that 5 minutes speech but personally I didn't enjoy it because it made film emotional and over sentimental otherwise best film after Bajirao Mastani. Cheers!
 

Bobby Sing

Hi Prakash Ji,
Glad to know that you loved watching the film and its great to be emotional at times too with tears in your eyes while walking out of the theater.

It actually makes you feel not only for the main character but for the people who were left behind with nothing but fond memories to be cherished for the rest of their lives.

Cheers!
 

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