Saturday 20 February 2016

Neerja movie review: It moves you and it gets you to care.

It gets you to feel the impact

It's a difficult task to review a movie that tells you about great lives. This is because while you may be reviewing the movie, people tend to feel that you are judging the person. When I say that Manjhi was an utter disappointment and that Airlift didn't have an impact, they feel that I am flunking them  just so I could project superiority while all the time, I am stating facts. Fortunately, this problem wouldn't crop up here because 'Neerja', much like the Neerja Bhanot herself, would endure the memories of people who have witnessed it.

Based on the real-life story of Neerja Bhanot, the purser at the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73 that got hijacked in the year 1986, Neerja gets you to care for the characters, almost moving you to pure sentimentality at one point. Sonam Kapoor delivers a flawed yet convincing portrayal of Neerja and you feel like she has finally come of age in Bollywood. Interestingly, it took her the role of a girl who never reached 23 to do that. But good things as you may have heard about her, all of it isn't true.

The movie begins with introducing Neerja as a  young, peppy cinephile who loves Rajesh Khanna movies. "Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi", she tells a taxi driver who blesses her to have a long life. It's forthright foreshadowing, because obviously we know the story, but it gets you hooked to the film. In the short time following that, Director Ram Madhvani gets us introduced to her, giving us little hints to her life's qualms and the person she really is. It's one important aspect of film-making that others forget- justifying a motivation for one's actions. Neerja has had a tough life, a marriage gone sour, work-life imbalances, emotional trouble and a feeling that she ran away from them as a coward. And this is what makes her do what she does. This is how you tell a story people- Not by putting up bizarrely comic sequences to show how cool the protagonist is, Not by going by the manual and writing scenes around news items but by establishing a connection between the protagonist and the story. What motivates our central figure? What drives her? How do you justify 'finding courage amidst fear'? This is what makes up a convincing movie drama.

All of that said, I must remind you that it isn't a great movie. Just that it is successful in achieving what it wanted to achieve. Each singular shot finds its way into the final edit because it is essential to the movie and not because it projects a wow factor for the audience. It's a small but a fantastico example that I cite here but when Neerja's mother (Shabana Azmi) hears the news of her plane getting hijacked, you expect that she should obviously lose sense of things. It's a great scene where her two parents talk over the phone and when the mother hangs up, she scratches her head, not knowing what to do. I felt like there should have been a cut right there but instead she proceeds to beat something she is preparing with a spoon and eventually the gravity of the moment dawns upon her as she lets it go. You don't see something this good everyday and for moments like these, you love Neerja.

Again, the music is effective- powerful when required and uplifting when desired. It contributes just right to the navigation of the movie by hanging around in the background where it should be for a movie like this. For if you throw in a number amidst chaos, you break the tension. And the first rule of a thriller is- Never break the tension.

I should probably go about telling you why I say it is not great. But I choose not to do that. Instead, I want to focus on  why it works. There are 379 lives on that airplane, each one as precious as the other. And you want the viewers to feel the impact if even one of them is lost. So what do you do? Go about hanging the camera over your lead star just because she is the titular character? NO. And the makers understand this. And that is why, they take her everywhere, to each person part of the all and to everyone part of the one. If you are an emotional person, you get to see them as Neerja sees them and then, it's no longer a movie. It's 379 lives.

Bandwidth verdict- Go for the show and witness a life. Biographical movies out there- This is how it's done.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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