I really did not expect to get as emotionally engaged watching Neerja as I eventually did; truth be told, I knew very little of the premise except it was a film based on a real life plane hijacking and that several people on Twitter whose taste and opinion I blindly trust in had raved about the film. But I am glad I did – the film is largely without hyperbole and hysteria and the drama is genuinely terrifying and upsetting in turn.
Madhvani manages to keep a firm control of the action and presents an account of the hijacking which uses cinematic liberty with restraint and also does well in coordinating the fear and emotion built in by the screenplay. I did wish that there had not been an interval so that the dramatic tension could have been retained and add to the already unbearable tension that had been carefully gathered up.
Performance wise, this is Sonam’s best work to date. It is not flawless – there are many small performance orientated moments, some of which hit the mark, others don’t but overall when Sonam underplayed her role, she was very watchable. It is Shabana Azmi’s performance that moved me to tears – beautifully nuanced, this easily could have been done by numbers but Azmi explores a whole range of emotions effortlesssly and saves the greatest impact for the heartbreaking soliloquy at the end.
Much like the unfairly maligned Attacks of 26/11 by RGV, Neerja worked best when it avoided sensationalism and gave an idea of the terror that the victims would have experienced . As difficult as it is to watch at times, Neerja also manages to weave in an uplifting message and leave plenty of food for thought afterwards. A worthy addition to the biopic canon in Hindi cinema and highly recommended, Neerja is a compelling watch and a respectable tribute to a real-life hero and inspiration to all