Akshay Kumar, after a harrowing time with an Iraqi tyrant, makes his way back home in a torn out car. Helpless, he looks at all the mayhem towards his left. The camera moves to the road on his right and there is terror all around with corpses all over and people getting beaten up. The camera pans back on him and in a matter of seconds, Akshay’s expressions have changed from being helpless and terrified to totally distraught. This is the point when he realises that he has lost it all; not just his wealth but also the country.
This is the defining moment of the film and when Akshay would be collecting his awards next year (which be surely will, unless someone really challenges him with a stunner of a performance in the course of the year), it is this very scene that would play all over again.
Truly, Airlift has to be Akshay’s *Best Performance* ever in a career spanning 25 years. For someone who has done around 110 films already and is sprinting ahead with every passing year, it is remarkable to see him giving everything for this film that has truly brought the actor out of him in full force. He is restrained, true to the part, natural to the core, powerful in the need of the hour and truly brilliant when he realises that he is the last hope for 1,70,000 Indians stuck in Kuwait.
And to think of it, Airlift is a real life story, which warrants that the level of performance is many notches higher than a regular commercial mainstream act. This is where director Raja Menon scores most with the film since he is brilliant as a master craftsman who blends realism with entertainment and ensures that the two hours make for a wide-eyed viewing. Leave aside checking your cellphone for those WhatsApp forwards, you can’t even register a glance to the person next to you in the auditorium when the film plays.
As a subject, Airlift was a dangerous path to tread. Here is a film that steps into Middle East of 25 years ago, talks about the troubles that Indian government and the bureaucrats faced while planning the rescue mission, has a superstar playing a real character in the most trying of circumstances and most importantly comprises of newer chapters that unfold every 10 minutes. Really, there was always a risk of the film falling astray at a crucial junction or two due to factors as varying as something suddenly turning too heroic, moving away from the core drama or even turning non-interesting.
However, hats off to the writing team of Raja Menon among with Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia and Ritesh Shah who maintain such a stranglehold on the subject that you never once step out of the film’s zone. In that aspect, the entire technical team gets it perfectly right, right from the DOP Priya Seth (who lends an international look to the film), editor Hemanti Sarkar (who never allows even a single scene to overstay its welcome), or the set designer and location managers (who bring Middle East alive for screen). It is to credit of the producers (Bhushan Kumar, Nikhiil Advani, Vikram Malhotra) who get the right resources in place with correct budget to give the film an upmarket look.
All of this is further supported well by a competent cast that doesn’t strike a single false note. Nimrat Kaur is very good again as a reluctant wife who stays truly within the character and doesn’t turn filmy, something that usually turns out to be the case for many actresses in films bringing to such setting. Kumud Mishra continues to be his brilliant self and looks every bit a Sarkari Babu who wants to do good things, provided he gets a free hand. Prakash Belawade’s unique acting abilities never cease to entertain and he is terrific again. Purab Kohli is in a new avtar and plays his supporting part well. The surprise of the film though is Inaamulhaq, who plays the Iraqi Major. He transforms himsel completely from the Pakistani simpleton part that he played in Filmistaan.
As for the film, needless to say, Airlift is a MUST WATCH, not just for the current Republic Day season, but any season right through the year.
Go, watch it!