Based on the life of 22 year old flight attendant Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), the movie Neerja starts its plot on the night of September 4, 1986 nearly 12-14 hours before PAN AM Flight 73 was hijacked at Karachi, Pakistan`s International Airport.
Showing two sequence of events almost parallel to each other, the movie shows bits of both Neerja and hijackers life on their last night before the September 5th hijack.
While on one hand the movie shows how the Palestine terrorists prepared for taking the plane hostage, on the other hand they showed how Neerja; a hard working 22 year old Punjabi girl in Bombay (Now Mumbai) is the life of her family and no matter what the hardship is ready to take life head on.
After the initial typical dance sequence that we see in Bollywood movies and over repetition of the fact that Neerja is just crazy about Rajesh Khanna (aka Kaka) the story begins with Neerja getting ready for her flight (her first as head Purser) and heading her way to work just two days before her 23rd birthday.
The movie then starts giving a bit of backdrop on Neerja`s life, of her love interest Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani – Shekhar of Musical duo VishalShekhar) her loving and ever fussing mother Rama Bhanot (Shabana Azmi) and her father Harish Bhanot (Yogendra Tiku ) for whom his daughter is the apple of his eye.
After some basic backdrop on Neerja, we finally reach Pan Am flight 73 where we see Neerja performs her routine round and address the passengers as they take their seat.
We get to meet few main passengers (from the story`s prospective) who are on the flight like the Indian- American passenger who was shot by the terrorists, his grandmother and the three kids (whom Neerja later died saving).
The story then moves more quickly with the flight landing in Karachi and how the hijackers take control of the flight and how Neerja with her quick thinking alerts the pilots just in time for them to escape from the cockpit.
Though the movie then moves on from there to show what happened in the next 17 hours, and how Neerja took charge of things to save the passengers, there are still few things that the director (Ram Madhvani) fails to cover during these hours like the role of other flight crew members, what exactly happened in Pakistan and Indian ministries and airports to get situation under control (the just give few minutes here and there to these events) and the sequence of events from any passengers prospective (who just sat there like sitting ducks as Neerja did all the talking and weird stuff like just standing up and walking to the washroom after seeing a passenger being shot dead right in front of her (what was all that about) and then coming out and offering to serve water to other passengers (What!!!).
I understand that there are sequence of events that the movie has to follow but as a director one could have made it a little more smoother in transition and a lot less abrupt than what it was.
Those few minor (yet really idiotic) things apart, when you see the movie from an overall prospective, it really leaves an impact and makes you think for many hours after you have watched the movie.
Neerja posthumously became the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime military award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra in 1987.
Her courage and valor needed to be shown and today`s generation needed to know about her.
Overall it was a great choice story wise to be made into a movie and choosing an mainstream actor like Sonam to play her will get her story the much due audience that she deserves.
Overall on acting front I was left disappointed, not because actors like Soman and Azami didn`t do justice to their roles (at point you really feel that) but because as a director Madhavni failed to challenge them and didn`t give them much to work upon.
While one might blame Sonam to portray Neerja that well (she did do justice in what ever she did) we also cannot forget the caliber that Azami is and even her acting skills in this movie at times felt meek.
The director and other members of the movie crew could have taken this movie to the level of making it into a classic if they had even give 10%-20% more effort to take it a level up.
Overall a great story, a good movie, acceptable acting and a disappointing direction.
The high point of this movie was actor Jim Sarbh (who plays hijacker Khalil) who makes this movie more interesting with his craziness.
The low point of the movie is lack proper research and exploring all angles by the director.
Overall I will give the movie 3 stars out of 5.