In the wake of ‘Operation Raahat‘, rescue operation executed by Indian military force to sea and air evacuate stranded Indians in war conflicted Yemen in the second quarter of 2015, we were brought back to the memories of the horrifying Iraq-Kuwait Invasion that had taken place back then in 1990.
This week’s new release ‘Airlift’ is heart-wrenching account of the said invasion that compelled many Indian refugees – stranded in the war zone Kuwait – to seek help from the country they once left behind.
Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), a multimillionaire shrewd businessman who thought of himself mores as a Kuwaiti and not an Indian, finds himself at the receiving end, when Saddam Hussein led Iraqi military force invade Kuwait on that fateful night of 2nd August, 1990.
Earlier thinking it as a phase that would fade, Ranjit faces the hard reality and all hell break loose when his faithful driver is shot died before and then realizes the intensity of this war. Strongly supported by his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and young daughter, he is suddenly compelled to take a step to not only protect his family but also 1,70,000 Indians who have been hit hard by the invasion.
With this turn of events, Ranjit discovers a human and patriotic side of him he never encountered and executes a historical airlift evacuation of his people from Kuwait to India with help of Indian military aircraft and civilian 488 Air India flights that last for 59 days.
Director Raja Krishna Menon turns this hair-raising history into a one man army with Ranjit taking centre stage as a messiah of countless life who finds a hero in him. There is a sense of fear and one can sense refugee’s suspicion of making it out alive from the moment Kuwait is ripped apart, it’s staged in such a way – brilliant cinematography by Priya Seth – that you can’t help but feel frighten and concern for their safety, every time the Iraqi force shows up for the purpose of terrorize the country, you find yourself stunned.
While Ranjit bravely take up the responsibility to safely bring all his people back, he is aided relentlessly by a dedicated bureaucrat Sanjeev Kohli (Kumud Mishra), who runs against time, completing government procedures and pleading the ministers to get things done. With 140 minutes of time duration, Airlift catches your attention and seldom loose stream.
Akshay Kumar is riveting as Ranjit Katyal. We have – consciously or unconsciously – have never given him his due despite delivering terrific performances in the past. This time, with Airlift, he goes beyond his action image and gives a performance that is emotionally understated and subtle throughout, becoming film’s best strength.
Nimrat Kaur is wonderful as Amrita Katyal, a women who, earlier hesitant, but slowly makes her husband’s mission as her own. There is a scene where she confronts a cantankerous refugee, with her cutting sermon when her husband’s intention and act is questioned.
Kumud Mishra shines as the committed bureaucrat Kohli, who ends up being the unsung hero behind this gutsy mission as a result of his tireless attempt to get his people back home safe and secure. Purab Kohli is empathic as Duran Ibrahim, a man hopelessly in search of his love amidst the conflict. Inaamulhaq as the cruel Iraqi general registers impact despite minimal screen footage.
Very few films have the power to change your thoughts. Airlift reminds us that no matter how much we try to move far away from our roots, in the end our country will always be the first to protect and nurture us. Strongly recommended!