Director: Raja Krishna Menon
Airlift kicked up a lot of dust merely for being based on one of the most heroic evacuations that took place in 1990. Kuwait was attacked by Saddam Hussain. And right in the middle of this political unrest the Kuwaiti government disappears, leaving one lakh Indian immigrants with identity crisis bang in the middle of a war zone. What happens then?
You can turn to history to know what really happened.But don’t, if you wish to enjoy this movie, because though Airlift boasts of being a page from the 1990 invasion, in reality misses the mark. Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) is a mighty businessman in Kuwait who loves smirking at the sorry state-of-affairs in India. The proverbial corruption and lack of management flow in and out of conversations where India is concerned. Amrita Katyal (Nimrat Kaur) is his wife who has now gotten used to his narcissistic ways. And together they were living a happy, plush life with their 5-year-old daughter Simran (Abida Hussain). But then everything changes. Kuwait is attacked by Iraq. Daily life is splintered and Indians in Kuwait walk around feeling lost. A close shave with the Iraqi soldiers jolts the patriotic in Katyal and he pledges to coordinate the rescue of his fellow Indians from this war zone.
While director Raja Krishna Menon has done a great job in keeping the script tight, he easily digresses from the facts. The film tells the story from Katyal’s perspective. But whether the character of Katyal is based on a real-life hero is questionable.
Akshay Kumar maintains a brilliantly stoic persona throughout.Nimrat Kaur fails to surprise as we’ve seen her displaying similar tones in Lunchbox. And this time it makes us question – is that all she has? Inaamulhaqplays the role of Major Khalaf Bin Zayd whoshoulders the grim responsibility of bringing Kuwait to her knees. But you will have to work really hard to believe in this character. Zayd comes across as a funny little man trying hard to intimidate people. He fails miserably. Then there’s Purab Kohli as Ibrahim Durrani. Purab does justice to the staccato role he has been given. He moves in and out of the storyline without adding much to it.
The editing is tight, music goodand songs few (thank god!). The movie would have earned brownie points had it stuck to what really happened in 1990. Alas, director Menon takes generous liberties in twisting facts under the guise of creative license.
Fact is that Indian government did play a key role in this episode of history; an active, sensitive part, very unlike the sloppy self that was shown onscreen. Yes, in 1990 there were some people who had driven the rescue operation. Butcould that be credited to the Katyal in Airlift? No.
But if we keep aside the facts and the entire question of whodunit,Airlift is a good watch. As an isolated movie it stands tall in the tight editing that won’t allow any loo breaks in the middle of the movie.
Verdict: Strictly a one-time watch that would arouse curiosity about what really happened during the fateful year. Watch it, always keeping a pinch of salt handy.