Airlift – a true-to-life movie recounting the Kuwait exodus
Airlift was released on 22nd January 2016. Co-written and directed by Raja Krishna Menon, it has an Akshay Kumar who has surpassed himself, Nimrat Kaur with limited scope but has made a good contribution, and other good performances from the cast. Together they have put up with their realistic performances, the responses to an event that shook-up the world, and even more significantly, a sizeable Indian population that was affected by it.
Basis for ‘Airlift’
In August 1990 when Kuwait was suddenly overrun by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, as part of the Persian Gulf war that had broken out, there was fierce combat between the Iraqi troops and the Kuwaiti Armed Forces. Within two days, the Kuwaiti forces had mostly been overrun or had to back out to neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Kuwait was taken over by the Republican Guards of Iraq and Saddam Hussein declared that Kuwait had been annexed to his country. In this sudden calamity that befell a tranquil condition, all hell broke loose with a mass exodus being the only option available. 170,000 plus Indians who were in Kuwait at that time, found themselves in the midst of one of the worst nightmares that they could imagine. The evacuation of almost the whole lot of them, barring a very small number who eventually stayed back, created a record of sorts in world history.
It caught the imagination of Raja Krishna Menon in 2015, became a nice plot to put on the silver screen, and with the reality shown so very realistically on celluloid, the initial reviews of the just released film promise a gripping time with the momentum never letting up from a few scenes later at the beginning to the very end.
Airlift the film
Airlift, the Hindi movie, that has just been released on 22nd January 2016 to rare reviews praising the performance of Akshay Kumar in particular, is supported by a good cast, been directed by an able director and complemented by a throughly professional crew with some excellent photography to complete the excellent team effort.
- Akshay Kumar - Ranjit Katyal
- Nimrat Kaur - Amrita Katyal
- Feryna Wazheir - Tasneem
- Inaamulhaq - Major Khalaf Bin Zayd
- Lena - Deepti Jayarajan
- Purab Kohli - Ibrahim Durrani
- Prakash Belawadi - George Kutty
- Kumud Mishra - Sanjiv Kohli
Directed by - Raja Krishna Menon
- Nikhil Advani
- Monisha Adwani
- Aruna Bhatia
- Madhu G. Bhojwani
- Bhushan Kumar
- Krishan Kumar
- Vikram Malhotra
- Raja Krishna Menon
- Suresh Nair
- Rahul Nangia
- Ritesh Shah
- Amaal Mallik
- Ankit Tiwari
Cinematography - Priya Seth
Edited by - Hemanti Sarkar
An Akshay Kumar film all the way
The horror of what could happen when war has broken out and people are unprepared, the slowly sinking in feeling of desolation, the helplessness written on faces and not knowing what to do, the pathetic cries for help, the reactions of different individuals grasping the situation in their own ways are all part of a well scripted, well-planned, co-ordinated and amazingly well-shot film that ‘threatens to become a blockbuster’.
But if there is one person who is being put on a pedestal for his convincing performance, a man who keeps the screen alive with his true-to-life presence and honest delivery, it is the man called Akshay Kumar. From the time he had been offered the film, read the script, he has been committed to his role and what histronics he has displayed before the audience and being centric to the movie, he helps immensely to bring out the stark reality that people find themselves in, when a situation that they had never encountered in their lives nor ever imagined, suddenly occurs.
Facts associated with the actual Airlift and the movie
- The evacuation of the Indian ex-partriates was carried out from 14th August to 11th October 1990. 160000 Indians opted to return to safety, 10000 remained for their own reasons and at their own peril.
- Air India, despite being a civil airline, carried out the entire evacuation, and got into the Guinness Book of World records for ferrying out an exodus of the largest number of persons.
- The process of so many civilians moving out from a place at one time in such short time also became a record.
- The initial efforts to clear the people to safety through military aircraft ran into difficulties with the non-allowing of air space clearances. When Minister of External Affairs at that time, I.K.Gujral, had visited Iraq, the foundations for this eventuality had been laid and subsequently when the time came, the Iraqi authorities agreed to tacitly permit the Indian evacuation efforts.
- Air India’s airlift was co-ordinated by MP Mascarenhas based in Kuwait since there were difficulties that arose from the high number of evacuees involved, lack of proper travel documents and poor communications.
- Luckily before hell broke loose with Operation Desert Shield launched by the United States, all the Indians had returned back to Mumbai, India, a distance of 4000 plus Kilometres accomplished in 488 flights made by Air India in 59 days.
- Budgeted at Rs. 30 crore, the idea was developed by Raja Krishna Menon, the director himself after studying the whole incident of the war which he gave touches to, in his own way.
- The entire film centres on the evacuation, made possible by the efforts and philanthropic gesture by Rajat Katiyal, a businessman who is suddenly transported from a quiet uneventful life to a catastrophic uncertain one.
- The principal photography was started on February 2015. Some portions of the film were shot in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates in early March 2015. The sets were re-created to depict Kuwait during 1990. Some more portions of the film were shot in Rajasthan, India. Final portions of the film were completed with shooting of a music video. It seems Akshay and Kohli learnt Arabic to appear true to their roles.
Akshay may have done many good roles in his life, he has starred in very many blockbusters, but this movie that he has carried on his shoulders speaks volumes about a latent potential, a hidden facet, that has suddenly surfaced.
Those coming out of the theatres have but one thing to say – Kya Kamaal Ka Kaam Hai Akshay Kumar Ka (What wonderful work has Akshay Kumar done).