By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Airlift”; Director: Raja Krishna Menon; Cast: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli, Inaam-ul-Haq, Kumud Mishra and Prakash Belawadi; Rating: ***1/2
“Airlift” is a human saga set in the backdrop of war-ravaged Kuwait in August 1990, when Saddam Hussein attacks and takes over Kuwait, rendering several thousand Indians homeless.
How an otherwise shrewd and prosperous businessman named Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) rises to the occasion and selflessly leads the rescue operations to evacuate 1,70,000 Indians, forms the crux of this over two-hour long film.
Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katyal, the unsung hero, is sincere and portrays the character credibly. He is a self-absorbed businessman living in the lap of luxury one minute and a distraught family man the next. With equal ease, he brings out the frustration and fears of a helpless Indian in Kuwait trying to help his fellow countrymen.
Nimrat Kaur as his wife Amrita fails to leave an impact as she seems disconnected with her character and merely delivers her lines.
The ensemble actors, with limited screen time, manage to leave an impact: Purab Kohli as Ibrahim Durani is natural and convincing; Inaam-ul-haq as the greedy and opportunist Major Khalaf Bin Zayed of Baghdad with a quirky Middle East accent wows with his performance; Prakash Belawadi as George Kutty is every inch the disciplined but selfish old man in the Indian camp in Kuwait; and Kumud Mishra as Sanjeev Kohli, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, touches your heart with an honest performance of an Indian who answers the call of duty.
The film starts off on a sluggish note, with a fairly slow pace and minimal drama, but picks up post intermission and more than makes up for the dull first half with drama, action, emotion thrown in for good measure.
The graph of the story is flat and lacks the peaks and troughs of a thriller. Furthermore, owing to the predictability of the subject, there is no element of surprise for the viewer. It is only the performances and the human pathos that keeps the viewer going.
Priya Seth’s cinematography of the war scenes and destruction is praiseworthy, as she recreates the anguish and fears of the stranded Indians, right before your eyes, enabling you to relive those moments.
Raja Krishna Menon astutely wields the baton as a director, handling the powerful subject in its entirety with honesty and manages to evoke a feeling of pride in the minds of the audience.
He recreates the vulnerability of Indians and their indefatigable spirit with aplomb along with displaying a spectrum of human emotions in the hour of crisis.
The music in the film is perfunctory. The song, “Mera nachan nu”, conveys the emotion, yet seems a tad forced as it is picturised at an inopportune moment.
With minor flaws that can be overlooked, “Airlift” is a well made film that would definitely appeal to patriotic Indians.