Wednesday, 11 January 2017

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Neerja is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical thriller film directed by Ram Madhvani and written by Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh. It was produced by Atul Kasbekar's company, Bling Unplugged, alongside Vijay Singh's Fox Star Studios. The film features Sonam Kapoor as the title character, with Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku and Shekhar Ravjiani in supporting roles.

The plot centers on the Libyan-backed Abu Nidal Organization's hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, on 5 September 1986.[3] The film is shown from the point of view of the flight's head purser, Neerja Bhanot, who thwarted the hijack attempt by alerting the pilots, thus grounding the plane. She was killed by the hijackers while helping to save 359 of the 379 passengers and crew on board.[3] The government posthumously awarded her the Ashoka Chakra; she was the youngest person to receive it.

Development began in September 2014, when Kasbekar signed Madhvani and Kapoor for a film to be made by Bling Unplugged and Fox Star Studios. Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyuktha Chawla worked on the script, with principal photography taking place in Mumbai. The film features music by Vishal Khurana, with lyrics written by Prasoon Joshi. Neerja was released on 19 February 2016 to positive critical reception, with praise directed to Kapoor's performance

The film opens with 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) arriving late for a house party. Later that evening, her mother Rama Bhanot (Shabana Azmi) expresses concern about Neerja's job as a flight attendant, suggesting that Neerja should return to her old modeling career . Neerja insists on keeping her job. She is driven to the airport by her friend Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani).

Neerja reflects on her brief, unhappy arranged marriage to Naresh (Kavi Shastri), a professional in Doha, Qatar, who abused her over her small dowry and inability to clean. She eventually returned home for a modeling contract. Naresh sent her parents a letter complaining about the dowry and their daughter's lack of domestic skills, demanding that Neerja either bring back money or not return at all. Neerja left Naresh and landed a job with Pan Am Airways.

As Neerja boards Pan Am 73, it is revealed that the Abu Nidal organization, a Libyan-sponsored terrorist group, has plans to hijack the plane in Karachi. The plane takes off from Mumbai's Sahar International Airport and lands in Karachi, where the four Abu Nidal terrorists, disguised as security officers escorting a Libyan diplomat, hijack the plane. Neerja quickly alerts the cockpit, and the three American pilots escape through the overhead hatch, fleeing to the terminal under fire from the hijackers. The American pilots had just enough time to escape, as the hijackers did not realize that the cockpit of a Boeing 747 is located upstairs.

When an Indian American passenger reveals himself as an American, one of the terrorists murders him and throws his body off the aircraft in front of the Pakistani negotiators. The terrorists try to locate a radio engineer among the passengers by ordering Neerja to make an announcement over the intercom. When Emran Ali (Shashi Bhushan), a Pakistani radio engineer , begins to stand up, Neerja signals for him to sit down. The terrorists have the flight attendants collect all passports to identify the American passengers and hold them hostage; Neerja and her colleagues collect the passports, disposing of any American passports by throwing them down trash chutes or hiding them under seats. Dejected over not finding any American passports, the hijackers locate a British passenger and hold him hostage.

The Pakistani negotiators inadvertently reveal the name of radio engineer Ali, whom the hijackers bring to the cockpit to use the radio for negotiations. Meanwhile, the Pakistani authorities try to stall for time. When a younger terrorist assaults the passengers and molests the attendants, the terrorist leader chastises him; humiliated, the younger terrorist storms into the cockpit and shoots Ali, screaming wild threats over the radio. While negotiations with the Pakistani air controllers drag on, the negotiators slowly lose control of the situation, with the hijackers becoming more agitated by the minute.

Around 17 hours later, the plane loses auxiliary power, and the lights go out inside. Despite Neerja and the other attendants' attempts to explain, the terrorists assume the Pakistanis cut the power deliberately, and anticipate an imminent Pakistani raid on the plane. The panicking hijackers begin shooting down passengers indiscriminately; at great peril to her own life, Neerja opens the rear door and deploys the chute, directing passengers out of the plane. Choosing to let the passengers escape first, Neerja is fatally shot by the terrorists when she tries to shield young children from the gunfire. The film ends with a tribute to Neerja, who was eventually honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest military decoration awarded for peacetime valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice.

Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot. In an interview with IBT, Kapoor describes her character and explains, "Neerja is an extremely principled girl with the most amazing characteristics. She had the presence of mind, the compassion, and the kindness to take care of other people and not herself."[5]
Shabana Azmi as Rama Bhanot, Neerja's mother
Yogendra Tiku as Harish Bhanot, Neerja's father
Shekhar Ravjiani as Jaideep, Neerja's friend
Saad Orhaan as Saad Mallik, Inzamam's subordinate
Abrar Zahoor as Zayd Safirini, a terrorist
Jim Sarbh as Khalil, a terrorist
Ali Baldiwala as Mansoor, a terrorist
Vikrant Singta as Fahad, a terrorist
Kavi Shastri as Naresh, Neerja's ex-husband
Bobby Arora as Ayn Zoya
Edward Sonnenblick as Capt. Jack Snipes
Arnold Malek as Capt. Harrison James
Waqar Khan as Co-Pilot Richard Bertrand
Nikhil Sangha as Akhil Bhanot, Neerja's brother
Arjun Aneja as Aneesh Bhanot, Neerja's brother
Ismail Mohammed Mirza as Al Turk
Sushil Tyagi as Inzamam Younis
Andy von Eich as Karl Malone
Meghana Kaushik as Sanjana
Eisha Chopra as Debina
Sunanda Wong as Tina
Anjali Khurana as Dolly
Shashi Bhushan as radio engineer Emran Ali
Aarush Rana as Jatin Desai
Shaurya Chopra as Shaurya Desai
Vishwendra Singh as Akram Baig
Chandra Thakur as a Pan Am official
Manya Chopra as Bhavika Desai
Prashant Guptha as Rahul Kumar
Asha Joshi as Sujata Kumar
Alex Kozyrev as Ronnie Heston
Ikhlaque Khan as Musthaq Khan

Development and casting
Sonam Kapoor on the sets of 2011 film Thank You
Actress Sonam Kapoor was selected to play the titular character of Neerja Bhanot.
Pre-production work on Neerja began in September 2014, when the film's executive producer Atul Kasbekar said that his company, Bling Unplugged, would co-produce Ram Madhvani’s film along with Fox Star Studios. Kasbekar later tweeted, “Do U Know Who Neerja Bhanot Is? No? Well U Really Really Should...”.[6] He said, “For us [...], a story of courage as exceptional as Neerja‘s simply deserved to be told. We just decided that we would our bit to ensure that India would remember one of its great heroines.”[7]

The film's screenplay was by Saiwyn Quadras, and the dialogue was written by Sanyuktha Chawla Sheikh.[8] The director of photography for the film was Mitesh Mirchandani, who had been previously associated with 2012 film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. The editing for the film was done by Monisha R Baldawa, and Manohar Verma served as the stunt director for the film.[9][10]

Kapoor was contracted by Kasbekar to play Neerja Bhanot, the senior flight crew member. On receiving the role of Neerja in the film, Kapoor told PTI, "I thought doing this film just reaffirms that it is about not bowing down. It is an inspiring story for me to do. I am blessed."[11]

It was reported in May 2015 that Shekhar Ravjiani, one half of Bollywood's performing/producing duo Vishal–Shekhar, would play a short role in the movie, marking his acting debut.[12][13] Shabana Azmi played the role of Neerja's mother in the film. In an interview with The Indian Express, Azmi describes her character and explains, "It was very difficult to play her, particularly the last scene where Rama addresses an audience. It is an extremely well-written emotional scene, which does complete justice to the moment."[14]

Filming and post-production[edit]
“So Ram you’re making this film Neerja, do you realize the responsibility that you have? You’re actually going to be building a set, you’re not even using a real plane and then you’re going to get people as passengers. Do you realize what actually happened on that plane [...]?”

– A journalist friend of Ram Madhvani [15]
Principal photography of the film commenced 19 April 2015 in Mumbai.[16] After two months of filming, the shooting was wrapped up on 19 June 2015. Kasbekar tweeted, "Amazing! And it’s a wrap on Neerja !!! 32 shooting days!!! That’s Two More days than Birdman took!"[17] During the principal photography of the film, many Bollywood celebrities visited the film's sets, including Vidya Balan, Boman Irani, Anil Kapoor, and Raju Hirani. "I knew that getting Aamir Khan, Boman Irani, Vidya Balan, Raju Hirani and Anil Kapoor to speak to the 220 cast would help instill dedication and effort that this film would require," director Madhvani said in a statement.[18]

The makers of the film acknowledged the responsibility of portraying the story. One challenge faced was acquiring a real plane for shooting; director Ram Madhvani and Rucha Pathak decided to re-create the plane because a major part of the film required shooting against the plane back-drop. It took them 48 days to build the plane, which closely resembled the original one.[19]

The film's visual effects (VFX) were by Tata Elxsi. VCL[a] produced a wide range of visual effects, including the creation of Karachi airport and buildings, and also helped in creating the 1986 period restoration for various locations. Huseini Barodawala, the head of Tata Elxsi, said that “It has been our constant endeavor to leverage our VFX expertise to transform the director’s vision onto the big screen and offer larger-than-life experiences to all our viewers

The film had a special screening on 16 February 2016 in Mumbai, which was attended by celebrities, including filmmaker Karan Johar; Subhash Ghai; Kapoor’s father, Anil Kapoor; Sachin Tendulkar; Yuvraj Singh; Sunil Gavaskar; Ayushmann Khurrana; and Amit Sadh. The film received a positive response from many Bollywood celebrities, with Tendulkar calling Neerja Bhanot a "Braveheart" and saying that "the people should definitely watch the film."[26]

The film was released worldwide, in approximately 671 theatres, on 19 February 2016. Upon release, Neerja received positive reviews, with praise directed to Kapoor's performance,[27] and was a moderate box office success.[28][29][30] The film was also praised by Delhi's Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, who tweeted that the film's message was, "Live for others, die for others."[31] The film emerged as one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films featuring a female protagonist.[32][33]

Neerja was banned in Pakistan since the film shows Pakistan in a negative light. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) maintained that the film should not be considered "banned" in Pakistan because it was not submitted to them.[34]

The film was declared tax-free by Government of Maharashtra and the Government of Madhya Pradesh.[35]

The Finance Minister, Jayant Kumar Malaiya, said, "The movies Neerja and Jai Gangaajal will be free from entertainment tax in Madhya Pradesh on account of International Women's Day which was celebrated yesterday." Producer Kasbekar, replied on Twitter, "Big thank you to MP Poonam Mahajan and the Hon CM Devendra Fadnavis in declaring Neerja tax free in Maharashtra. Quick and decisive decision.

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