Airlift(2016): In Airlift ,to play Ranjit Katyal, the unsung unknown hero who masterminded the evacuation of thousands of Indians stranded in Kuwait in August 1990 when Saddam Hussain’s battle-drunk army decided to take over, Akshay Kumar delivers a performance that is subtle and skilled. He weaves his way around the crisis , looking for centre to his war-torn conscience-stricken character .When he finds that centre , the actor builds a character who uses his negotiating skills as an entrepreneur to rescue innumerable lives from danger.
It’s a role clearly inspired by Liam Neeson in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. And Akshay is every bit as compelling as Neeson, if not more. After a look-what-an-affluent-couple-we-are party song(totally unnecessary) the plot straightway takes us thick into the tensions on the war-torn streets of Kuwait. The images of a suddenly-violated landscape are imaginatively mapped . It comes as a surprise that the film is shot by female cinematographer Priya Seth. The images her camera captures are rugged, virile and predominantly masculine.
We see the ravaged city swathed in the fire of fear.And the fear, tension and anxiety is most palpably manifested on Akshay Kumar’s face. A handsome, happy face suddenly stricken with panic for his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and little daughter’s safety.
Ranjit Katyal’s self-interest and concern for his family’s safety extends itself outwards to include his staff members and their family—there’s a brilliant conscience-awakening scene at the outset when Ranjit’s faithful driver is gunned down my Saddam’s marauders.Soon, the immediate concerns merge into a larger concern for the safety of all the stranded Indians in Kuwait.
For Ranjit the solution to the crisis is non-negotiable: either the safety of all Indians, or none.As his wife, at first skeptical about her husband’s sudden conscientiousness and then totally supportive, wonders: where did that come from?! The sense of an individual rising to confront a mammoth crisis is placed at a predominant position in the plot. The scriptwriters Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia, Ritesh Shah and director Menon, have researched Saddam’s invasion well. But they don’t allow the narrative to be bogged down by the politics of history.
Airlift is first and foremost a heart-stopping thriller. It’s the story of a man whose heroism is awakened in the hour of crisis.It’s an untold story that needed to be told Some of the most engrossing moments in the deviously-scripted political thriller find Ranjit Katyal making contact with an officer in the Minister Of External officers in the slim of getting help from the Indian government.
Actor Kumud Mishra, never known to let down his characters, creates tremendous empathy for the role of a bureaucrat struggling to convince an apathetic Indian administration to send help for the stranded Indians in Kuwait.During times of a crisis the humanism of an otherwise-selfcentred civilization is known to surface effortlessly. Airlift takes us through that journey of the awakened conscience with exhilarating and emphatic empathy.
Kuwait-stuck Ranjit Katyal’s desperate telephonic conversations with bureaucrat Sanjeev Kohli show both the men striving to tackle a crisis much larger than within their capacity to tackle it.It’s a majestically balanced equation brought to a fulfilling culmination by the subtlety and charm the two actors bring to their roles.
There is a lovely little scene in Sanjeev Kohli’s tiny home where his father(Arun Bali) a Partition refugee, reminds his son what the loss of homeland means to an individual. Here, the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait effortlessly acquires a beautiful historical perspective. The fringe roles of the scared frightened evacuees are played by competent actors , though some of them over-do the anxiety act. Standing-out among the crowds of refugees is Prakash Belawadi as a cantankerous whining old man , the kind of nuisance maker one comes across during any time of crisis. Belawadi’s farewell hug for Ranjit Katyal is the kind of reluctant salute that makes the hero seem even more heroic.
Nimrat Kaur as the hero’s wife doesn’t have enough space to take her character very far. She has one important outburst sequence where she ticks off Belawadi for questioning and insulting her husband’s heroism.Purab Kohli is engaging as a man searching for his missing wife in the mayhem that Saddam created, redeeming his loss by saving a helpless young Kuwaiti woman from sure death. It’s again part given a lot of heart by the writing and the actor playing the role.
Though Akshay Kumar and to a much smaller but equally significant extent, Kumud Mishra tower over the plot, the smaller characters are all etched in vivid shades.Except for a ridiculous ‘Arabic’ accent sported by an Iraqi general(played by Inaam-ul-Haq) the film doesn’t strike one false note as it hurls through events that history buried in a place too deep for tears.Though the budget constraints show up in the aerial and ground attack scenes(as uncalled-for as the Iraqi general’s ‘Arabic’accent) the film wears an urgent and tense look that reaches down to the audience and clutches us by our guts. More importantly Airlift shows, with resolute authority and underplayed virility, how a hero is a product of the troubles that humanity inherits from its own shortcomings. Ranjit Katyal is the Baahubali of his crisis.
Sometimes, being human comes naturally to cinema.That’s the moment we need to salute, celebrate and sanctify so that we get to see more unsung heroes on screen.We didn’t know Ranjit Katyal. But now Akshay Kumar has brought this unclaimed hero out of the rubble of history .It takes one hero to recognize and acknowledge another.
Saala Khadoos(2016): There aren’t too many competent sports films in our country, and certainly not too many that can claim to penetrate the hearts and minds of the sports and the sportsperson. Shimit Amin's Chak De, in spite of its rabid rabble-rousing nationalism, managed to give us a clear and coherent portrait of the sport and the player. Director Sudha Kongara Prasad gives us an unusual film where the stereotypical character of the cantankerous boxer meets his match when he picks up a foul-mouthed uncouth boxer for training into championship.
There is nothing in the plot to suggest even a whiff of the unexpected. If you’ve seen the gruff and growling Clint Eastwood barking pugilistically at his protégée Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Babyyou would know where the inspiration for Sudha Kongara Prasad’s film comes from….Or for that matter, the under-developed relationship between boxing coach Sunil Thapa and his fiery protégée Priyanka Chopra inMary Kom. Yet the story grips you from the word go.
Saala Khadoos constructs a case-study for a lingering guru-shishya kinship through scenes and dialogues that are unnerving in their capacity to accommodate all the ingredients associated with the mentor -pupil genre of cinema(there is even a distinct dash of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black in stormy liaison between the leader and the bled). Yet, there is a freshness in the dynamics that define coach Adi(Madhavan)’s relationship with his protégée Madhi(newcomer Ritika Singh). The two actors, specially the more experienced Madhavan, dig deep into their respective characters’ psyche to draw out character-defining traits and quirks that penetrate the sometimes-shallow sometimes-sublime treatment of the subject.
The narrative is virile and vibrant. The energy-level is mostly high. And yes, Madhavan’s AMAC(Angry Middle Aged Coach) act crackles with far more tension than what Shah Rukh Khan brought to a similar role in Chak De. This is Madhavan’s career-defining performance. He sinks so deep into his role both physically and emotionally, that the actor becomes one with the act, the dancer and the dance, the sports and player merge and melt into one another with a soul-stirring fluency.
Regrettably the material offered for the two very fine central performances flounders for the want of heft. A wispiness creeps into the narrative especially when the girl begins her embarrassing seduction act over her coach.I held my breath for the seduction song which luckily didn’t come. It’s all charted territory explored by two adventurous players who certainly deserved a more rewarding journey with many more bends and curves.
It’s not as if the writer-director plays it safe all the way. There are some moments in the film when the combustive energy of the mentor and the protégée threatens to flare up into something impressively explosive. But the Big Moments are squandered in stereotypical exchange of insults and invectives, all peppery and vinegary but not quite adding up to the life-giving food for thought that you hope and pray it would eventually turn out to be.
Saala Khadoos is an unabashed unapologetic and unalloyed rabble rouser whose two main characters’ graph moves together from the opposite sides of the moral arc—he gruff , cynical and burnt-out…she, raw , eager and stepping out into the big wide world .We both know they would find their redemption together.It’s the way the cookie crumbles.
However the Adi-Madhi journey should have secreted more curves and bends than what we see . But we really can’t complain. Saala Khadoos promised a rugged sports film.And it delivers. The film never makes a dull watch. Sathish Suriya’s editing is sharp . It takes away the rough edges from some of the awkwardly written scenes where the lines seem to be borrowed from rejected episodes ofChandrakanta.
But let’s salute the film’s third hero.Sivkumar Vijayan’s camerawork glides across the simmering surfaces capturing the anger, frustration and bitterness of Madhavan’s character before moving inwards to peer into the anatomy of human failure and redemption.
Alas, the film itself doesn’t match up to the glory of its stunning visual velocity or its leading man towering performance. This is Madhavan’s Raging Bull. By far his career’s finest performance.The film could have been better, though.Much better.
Image Source: Instagram/bangladesh_anomensland6/finest_flicks , youtube/t-series/seplvideo, imdb
Image Source: Instagram/bangladesh_anomensland6/finest_flicks , youtube/t-series/seplvideo, imdb