Posts Tagged ‘ Shabana Azmi ’

Neerja

Neerja-poster

Neerja
Release date: February 19, 2016
Directed by: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku, Jim Sarbh, Abrar Zahoor, Shekhar Ravjiani, Kavi Shastri

In a year where the word ‘nationalism’ has been quite the center of attention from various points of the political and societal spectrums, after Airlift, Neerja is another film that borrows from a brave rescue mission of a different kind. What’s greatly endearing about the two films is the fact that neither the former, nor the latter heavily rely on invoking jingoistic sentiments, which the currently ruling party is stacking the deck with to shush any and every dissenter’s voice.

Political commentary over.

The film starts rolling with a small recorded message from Neerja’s mother, Rama Bhanot, who passed away in December 2015. She’s apparently sat in an airplane seat, with a warm smile on her wrinkled face, blessing the viewers and the makers with a simple message. The film ends with her cinematic counterpart Shabana Azmi giving a tear-jerker of an eulogy of sorts.

Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) is an ardent Rajesh Khanna fan who infuses life into her colony’s boring gala night. Kids dance choreographically to Kaka‘s “Bye bye miss, goodnight”, albeit slightly remixed. Shots from the party are juxataposed with those of the ‘bad guys’ gearing up for their mission. Balloons are burst, one by one, at the party, while the Palestinian militants pack their bullets and grenades carefully. Neerja has to steward a late night flight to Frankfurt, forcing her to cut short on her sleep to which her mother (Shabana Azmi) is greatly pained. She wants her to quit the air-hostess job, because Neerja is already doing well in her modelling assignments.

Neerja asserts that she likes her job on the Pan Am airline and she enjoys doing it. Her journey to the flight is assisted by Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani) who has a romantic interest in her. All of this detailing is given away within the first few minutes of the film, goading her into the fateful Pan Am Flight 73 on the early morning of September 5, 1986. She’s charming, caring of the passengers’ needs and considerate of her co-employees and subordinates. She brings the flight’s Pakistani radio engineer video cassettes from India and she shows a greater work ethic even in the face of a hijack by the aforementioned Palestinian militants.

Her troubled marriage is slowly divulged, in moments where she sees herself helpless on the hijacked flight. She’s reminded of how her father always asked her to stay courageous, come what may and never tolerate any wrong, even when she’s married off to an abusive husband in a different country. The news of Neerja’s flight’s hijack is handed in the same courageous fashion by her mother, when her sons start losing their composure over the lack of any action by the Pakistani armed forces as the hijacked flight had been stuck for over eight hours at the Karachi airport.

Shabana Azmi, as the progressive Punjabi mother of the ’80s pulls at your stony heart’s strings so much, it’s not even fair. At the crux of Neerja’s valor and commitment to her job of being the flight head-purser are the values instilled in her by her family. Sonam Kapoor is straddled with a character of a certain vanity and a class that are closer to home for her. She mellows down her singsong delivery and retains her glamorous, chirpy persona and meshes it with her part.

The sense of tension and fear is palpable throughout the course of the flight’s captivity. Yes, the attackers are written in stereotypes, but Jim Sarbh with one of his angry breakdowns, in a particular scene, renders his Khaleel as his own and makes you gasp, wondering what he would do next in his fit of rage. Some of the passengers on the flight are established distinctively, thus making the viewer empathize with the potential tragedy that can fall upon them. Pieces from Neerja’s life are carefully strewn over the duration of the film, and only one amongst them, and a song, feels misplaced.

Neerja isn’t just a tale of a selfless employee putting her life in jeopardy to save the lives of others. It’s a well-told, emotionally resonating story of a family that was invested in creating a fair world for their children and helping them to make the right decision throughout their lives. Azmi’s speech at the end of the film may seem slightly long, but it’s one of the most sniffle-inducing ten minute film sequence of your life. A life snatched away too soon, yet commemorated forever. Just like her favorite line from Anand, “बाबूमोशाय, ज़िन्दगी बड़ी होनी चाहिए, लम्बी नहीं|” [Translation: Life is measured by what we do, and not how long we live.]

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

MKBKM poster

MKBKM poster

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
Release date: January 11, 2013
Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma, Imran Khan, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar

With a rustic settlement and background of a liquor store in the middle of a farm and a limousine in the foreground, this is how the film aims at being ‘unpredictable’ right from the start. And it somewhat comes through as that, given the commercial viability of it. Yes, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) is comparably the most commercial venture in Vishal Bhardwaj’s catalogue. No, it isn’t neo-noir or supremely grim in its black comedy.

The plot covers a drunkard, Hari Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) who has rechristened himself to a more English Harry Mandola. The juxtaposition of his both sides, i.e. Hari and Harry are absolutely contradicting. When he drinks, he becomes an earthy cuss word mouthing locale where he even calls himself a selfish person, and the royal Harry is a tough whip-bearing admonisher. He’s hired Matru (Imran Khan) primarily to keep an eye on his drinking habits, or so he says.

The village in which they live in is named after Mandola himself. Just like any other ‘progressive’ state’s farmers face the issue of relocation and giving up their land for the creation of Special Economic Zones and the eventual setup of a production plant, Mandola’s farmers have the same problems. They aren’t pleased with the state and try to reach out to a mercenary Mao. Though not a direct representation of Maoists, but the character is surely symbolic. Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) is Mandola’s daughter who’s about to get married for the mutual benefit of her father and Chaudhary Devi (Shabana Azmi) to her son Baadal (Arya Babbar).

The cinematography remains brilliant and vivid throughout the length of the film. The best display of photography is during the, okay wait (for you to judge) The writing keeps varying between satire and pure realism to completely hilarious debaucheries. Except for Navneet Nishan’s pink wardrobe shtick almost everything is acceptable. Pankaj Kapur’s acting prowess is on outright display and there’s no reason to complain. His inebriated Haryanvi mouthings are perhaps the heart of his character. Many will complain about Anushka Sharma’s portrayal of Bijlee or rather complain about seeing her play out the exact same person that she did in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. But it’s not really her fault or is it.

Imran Khan has not much meat in what’s written for him or his beautiful beard conceals any secret heavy emotions he’s played out. I am fairly confused. The second half has moments that slow down the course of the film and the climax takes the age-old approach of crashing a wedding, but it’s quite fun. There’s mush at the end, but it isn’t cringe-inducing mush. Also, there are immaculate beards all around the village.

MKBKM isn’t a dark-themed out and out draining emotional drama, but is rather a tutorial for our writers on how they can infuse genuine wit and black comedy without sucking out the life from the narrative of the film. It’s a fun-filled entertainer that has its brain in the right place.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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