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Airlift

IBTimes Rating: 3.5

The journey of a story from real to reel has undergone a transformation in the Hindi film industry. Biopics and historical films started out as hagiographic interpretations on the big screen, and continued that run until someone, about a decade ago, decided to paint the central characters grey.

Raja Krishna Menon’s “Airlift” starts on a promising note right there, then devolves into what can be best described by the name of Lemony Snicket’s famous series — a series of unfortunate events — before it gets back on track to leave the audience with a lump in their throats.

There are lumps elsewhere as well — on logic when it gets hit in the head at times, or when the demand for a dramatic scene sends continuity for a toss, or even when director Menon, who has also written the story, decides to club two characters — who were instrumental in the evacuation in real life — into one so Akshay Kumar’s Ranjit Katiyal seems larger than life at times.

But all’s well that ends well, and that’s all swell as far as the overall film goes. “Airlift”, as a film, works because it never goes overboard. And with the basic premise of the story disclosed right in the trailer, it’s not the “what happened” but the “how it happened” that makes or breaks a film like this.

In short, Iraq attacks Kuwait for apparently flimsy reasons, causes widespread destruction and desolation, but is gracious enough to leave the Indian expatriates — or most of them — unharmed. So how do these people, numbered close to 2 lakh, return home? That’s the story “Airlift” tells, and it does so in a manner that never goes over the top.

The restraint may seem disjointed at times, but it works to make “Airlift” believable to some extent. Otherwise, Menon has a tough time convincing the audience that there are actually 1.7 lakh people they are rooting for.

Priya Seth’s cinematography has its failings, but the narrative seems to make up for it. The plot and the screenplay may not be sterling either, but the histrionics, from Akshay Kumar’s rugged vulnerability to wiles and helplessness, to the hatred of the Iraqi Major played by Inaamulhaq, who was also a part of the national award-winning film “Filmistaan”, do make for some entertaining scenes.

Music does not have much of a role in this film, except may be to generate the aforementioned lumps in the throat in the climax. Nimrat Kaur does not have much of a role in the film, either, but instead of being the underutilised arm candy leading ladies that are a dime a dozen in Bollywood, she makes good use of what little screen time she has. Another “Filmistaan” alumnus, Kumud Mishra, as Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Sanjiv Kohli, has about as much screen time as Kaur, but manages to win hearts with his actions, despite the dour demeanour.

In the end, “Airlift” is probably a good release for the weekend preceding Republic Day, when patriotic sentiments are high. However, one only wishes that Menon had given a little more attention to some other aspects of the film. He does show promise, so here’s expecting better cinema from him.

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