Airlift is based on the the 1990 evacuation of 170000 Indians from Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Ranjit Katiyal, who considers himself to be more Kuwaiti than a Indian has a sudden awakening of conscience when his driver is shot right in front of him. He starts to take care of not only his employees but also all the Indians living there. The rest of the movie is about his heroic mission to see that everyone is evacuated safely.
The movie’s end credits state that the fictional character of Ranjit Katyal is based on Mr. Mathunny Mathews and Mr. Vedi. There is not much information about Mr. Vedi. Mathunny Mathews’s daughter made a facebook post and shared the following picture.
There is a old 1981 New York Times article about how “For the last 25 years, Mathunny Mathews, from India’s southern state of Kerala, has lived here in Kuwait and has prospered as an automobile dealer.”
This post on Quora has a very good discussion on whether there was any real life hero or heroes who single handedly were responsible for the biggest civilian evacuation in history. A link from that Quora post has a very good interview with K.P. Fabian, former Ambassador of India to Qatar, to Finland and to Italy, who was head of the Gulf Division of the Ministry of External Affairs during the First Gulf War.
In that interview he mentions that “one Mr. K.T.B. Menon called me on 2 August, saying that if finances were the problem he would pay for the air passage of any Indian who wished to leave. “KTB” was the richest Indian in
Kuwait. His generosity touched us. He is no more and I do not know whether the Government honoured him for his gesture.”
Now coming to the actual movie some scenes are very good like the scene where Ranjit reaches his disheveled home with no sight of his wife and child or the scene where Ibrahim talks about his newly married wife missing or the scene where Nimrat Kaur’s character lashes out at the irritating George or the scene where Ranjit fools the Iraqi major. The best scene of the movie is the scene where Ranjit’s driver is shot.
There is one unnecessary stupid fight sequence where Ranjit decides to be a Bollywood hero and fights with the Iraqi soldiers. The movie just grates on the nerves every time Nimrat’s character or Prakash Belawadi’s character appears on screen. Prakash Belawadi plays a ungrateful constantly complaining character. One assumes that the character would change for the better after he gets lashed by Nimrat’s character but he is annoying right till the end.
There are some unnecessary drama sequences like the Iraqi army raid on their camp or the Air India pilots refusing to fly to Iraq. The politician is portrayed in the usual filmy way. Even in a serious movie like this there are some unnecessary songs as usual since its a Bollywood movie. For a movie named Airlift the movie hardly spends any time on the actual evacuation.
Akshay Kumar is very good as Ranjit Katyal. He is restrained and pretty much carries the whole movie. Nimrat Kaur is pathetic and very annoying as his wife except for one confrontational scene. Nimrat who had hardly any make up in The Lunchbox has overdone make up and hair styling no matter what the situation is in the movie. Her acting was very TV serialish. Inaamulhaq was good as the somewhat threatening Major Khalaf Bin Zayd. Purab Kohli was good as Ibrahim. Prakash Belawadi was very irritating in a completely unnecessary irritating character role. The rest of the cast was ok.
Raja Menon’s direction is good in parts and bad in parts. Its a very uneven film as a very good scene is then followed by a scene which is either irritating or very unsubtle. He tries to make Ranjit Katyal’s character messianic and we are constantly reminded about the great heroic thing he is doing lest we all forget it. The movie will probably be liked by the majority of the audiences but if one was expecting a great movie on such a great incident then they may end up getting disappointed. Anyway despite the flaws its a good movie worth a watch just for covering an almost forgotten historical incident if one keeps their expectations low.
RecommendedTags: Airlift Akshay Kumar Boxoffice Member Reviews Nimrat Kaur Purab Kohli Raja Menon Reviews