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Airlift  : Lets You Down
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Friday, January 22, 2016
Raja Krishna Menon
Akshay Kumar, Nimrit Kaur

The historic evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians from Kuwait after the invasion by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain, needed to be documented on film. This operation already has a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records for the unprecedented number of people who were ferried by an airline.


Director Raja Krishna Menon and actor Akshay Kumar, therefore, deserve a pat on the back for the attempt to tell this inspirational true life tale.


Akshay Kumar plays unflinchingly ruthless businessman Ranjit Katiyal who’s well connected with the higher-ups and lives in a palatial mansion in Kuwait with wife Amrita and a little daughter.


But he wakes up from paradise when Iraqi soldiers march in and go on a rampage in Kuwait. Thousands are rendered homeless overnight, their lives in danger. Ranjit is hit hard when his favourite Malayali driver is shot by the soldiers and thus begins his transformation. Even when his friend Major Zayd who is in charge of Kuwait offers Ranjit an opportunity to flee with his family, his newly-awakened conscience forces him to stay back and help his workers. The numbers who seek shelter from Ranjit swell but the Government of India drags its feet over taking a decision and a ship scheduled to take home women and children can’t dock in Kuwait.


Krishna Menon makes an impact with the initial sequences of the brutal invasion. But Airlift soon peters out into more of an insipid documentary than an inspired sample of filmmaking.


Amrita starts off as a woman who can’t think beyond the safety of her family and is disgusted with her husband’s magnanimity. But begins to understand and stand by him. Ranjit ultimately manages to lead everyone to safety as Air India finally begins the mass evacuation.


Akshay Kumar is sincere in this emotionally motivated role but Nimrit Kaur lacks the bite that should’ve been seen in a confrontation between husband and wife. Kumud Mishra is first-rate as a helpful officer while Prakash Belawadi is sufficiently irritating as nit-picking George Kutty.


Airlift is a Republic Day release but there’s hardly any dialogue or scene to stir patriotic feelings. Nor is there the element of nail-biting thrill. With the exception of ‘Soch na sake’, the music too doesn’t have a patriotic flavour.  Noble intentions cannot make up for deficient filmmaking.


For a film that lets down the audience as much as the Indian government did, Airlift gets a 2.5* rating.

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Journalist & Author

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