‘Neerja’ was released worldwide on February 19, 2016. I watched the thriller recently at my wife’s insistence and I did not regret it at all. It is based on a true incident – the 1986 hijacking in Karachi, Pakistan of Pan Am Flight 73 by the Libya-backed Abu Nidal Organization.
(Spoilers ahead. If you know Neerja’s story, please keep reading!)
The movie revolves around the life of a flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, (played by Sonam Kapoor) whose brave and timely actions saved the lives of 359 passengers and crew on board.
If the actors succeed in making you forget that what the audience are watching is only staged enactment, then they have succeeded in their job. The actors who play the terrorists, particularly the two lead characters do justice to this statement. Sonam Kapoor, too, does a great job portraying Neerja’s character.
For instance, Neerja was fondly called “Babu Moshaay”in the movie, that famous phrase from Rajesh Khanna’s hit movie “Anand”, in which Khanna plays a terminal patient with a jolly heart. It is sadly curious how Neerja’s life would also be cut off unnaturally early like one of her favourite movie characters.
The movie also has a lot of nostalgia value for those who grew up in the 80’s in urban India.
Parties in the society lawn with cool, yellow “squash”(drink) being served as big fans blow air onto a sultry evening?
A middle-class household with ‘devout mother and pragmatic father’?
Nostalgic household items along with the mandatory Pomeranian dog?
Check! Check! Check!
But here is really why I suggest you should watch Neerja.
‘Neerja’ Honours Selflessness and Courage
There are various kinds of selflessnesses. Some are premeditated and motivated by a host of reasons. Some happen at the spur of the moment in the face of intense trouble and danger. Neerja’s selflessness falls more into the second kind.
But both need some amount of courage, self-sacrifice and concern for others.
The Neerja Bhanot Award and other bravery awards exist today to honour people who put their lives on the line for somebody else’s safety. You would agree we all run pillar to post to build our own kingdoms and a name for ourselves.
A secure job that would ensure good savings.
The best schools for our children.
Doing some good deeds to make us feel better about ourselves.
In a world like this, we would rather save ourselves than get involved in a mess that is not ours (would you and I help an injured person on the road? Exactly!). But Neerja Bhanot did the unusual and the unexpected. I do not know her motives behind her sacrifice, but her actions reminded me of Another whose blessing of a new spiritual life came at the greatest personal sacrifice known in history (Rom 8:31, 32).
‘Neerja’ Confronts Tragedy
The reality of tragedy beneath physical beauty is not a popular notion. In our world that markets and aspires for beauty and success, brokenness and tragedy are better put aside and not talked about – especially when you have just Friday to Sunday to show yourself off!
Marriage to an insecure and highly restrictive husband.
The effects of it on a 22-year old woman.
The stories of the pregnant lady and her husband and of the grandmother and grandson.
Maybe like some of us, Neerja tried to drown the background music of pain and brokenness with more modeling and a then a better career with airlines. But tragedy shows no partiality.
For many, the international flight cabin is a familiar and even, a nostalgic sight, sending us hurtling through years of journeys and adventures.. ‘Neerja’ is riveting in how a setting of comfort is turned into gripping horror as the terrorists hijacked Pan Am 73. Everyone is rendered helpless and evil takes them on a flight none that ended in pain, trauma and death.
‘Neerja’ Reminds You Life on Earth Can End Suddenly
Shabana Azmi’s character (Neerja’s mother) expresses how she had no idea when she sent off her daughter hurriedly, one sleepy morning that she would receive her body a few days later. That’s tragedy knocking mercilessly at your door, leaving a box of regrets you must open.
The fact is God uses evil designs of men to work out His beautiful plans and purposes. We have a tough time believing that.
With our ignorance about God’s real character and our lack of faith, we can not even fathom God’s purposes in using evil to bring out good.
Of course, we would rather have a brave soul like Neerja alive today.
Of course, I would rather have had my Saviour and King Jesus not go through the terrifying event of being separated from His Father God.
But that was the only way forgiveness and rescue from God’s judgment could be achieved for those who have faith in Christ (Acts 2:23). We need to believe, with all due respect to those who have entered eternity, that God works all things for the good of those who have surrendered to Him and love Him – especially in tragedies.
Would you do what Neerja did?
What must happen to turn me into a ‘Neerja’?
These are questions that you and I need to ask ourselves. You see, life matters too much to spend it without giving much thought. We shall face occasions, big and small, that call not for preservation but for a readiness to be expendable. I hope Neerja’s actions reminds us Christians of the call our Saviour Jesus places before us in the Bible to surrender to His plans and serve His Kingdom, which is worth spending it all for.