Film review: Airlift is an uplifting and inspiring story
Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli, Kumud Mishra
Set against the backdrop of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Airlift chronicles the true story of some of the people who rose to the occasion and helped the thousands of Indians stranded in the war zone escape to safety.
The film’s main character, Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), is a rich and successful businessman, living the dream as an opulent expatriate in Kuwait. However, the sudden invasion leaves him and his family at the mercy of the invading Iraqi army and he narrowly escapes a near-death situation.
His close encounter stirs up a dormant patriotism and Kumar takes on the mantle of helping his fellow Indians flee the country, setting the scene for the airlift of about 170,000 people – which remains the largest civilian evacuation effort in history. Kumar delivers a powerful and emotionally charged performance, adding to an already impressive body of work including Special 26 and Baby.
Strong yet understated, Kumar is the lifeblood of Airlift, present in almost every scene and leaving his mark every time.
His character’s transition from an all-conquering business tycoon to a leader and negotiator managing a larger-than-life crisis is impeccable. He leads the audience on an emotional roller-coaster that keeps them on the edges of their seats until the end.
Director Raja Krishna Menon, too, deserves credit for assembling a film that effectively portrays the human aspect of the tragedy, without dwelling too much on the political climate of the region. Doing so allows the narrative to remain true to its original theme and helps it to move along at a brisk pace. There is not a dull moment in the film.
The cinematography of Airlift also strikes a brilliant chord, adding to the charm of the film. Shot extensively in the UAE, primarily in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, the film beautifully recreates the Gulf of the 1990s.
The scenes of a war-ravaged city, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, with young Iraqi soldiers plundering and looting at will, were shot expertly.
Airlift also boasts powerful performances from its support cast. Nimrat Kaur, of Lunchbox fame, has a small role as Kumar’s wife, Amrita Katyal, but leaves an indelible mark.
Purab Kohli, too, shines as supermarket worker Ibrahim Durrani, a newly-wed husband looking for his missing wife in the midst of the chaos and tragedy. And Kumud Mishra skilfully portrays Sanjeev Kohli, an Indian government bureaucrat at the heart of the red tape that plagued the Indian rescue efforts.
Overall, Airlift is an engaging experience that resonates emotionally with the audience.
* Abhinav Purohit