Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a film that captures a true incident with the utmost sincerity and compels you to introspect on freedom that we often (always) take for granted. Imagine a city with blood-stained roads replete with corpses, teenage soldiers breaking into your perfectly-decorated homes and pillaging everything they can lay their hands on, killing, threatening and raping people. You expect help from the government, but they have already fled the country. The currency has lost its value and so has human life.
The film encapsulates loss, hope, and survival through keen eyes of Priya Seth’s cinematography and razor-sharp editing by Hemanti Sarkar. Despite its meek intentions of narrating a survivors’ tale, Airlift has been widely criticized by film critics. Well, everyone with a smartphone is a film critic these days, just like everyone with a DSLR camera is a photographer (Pardon the digress). So here’ an attempt at airlifting ‘Airlift’ from Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ (2012). For the ones seeking a review, well, it ends right here.
Many critics have compared Airlift with Argo, indulging in some serious ‘Argosmic pleasures’. Some even went to the extent of counting the number of times Akshay Kumar went into the ‘star mode’ from ‘actor mode’ or Nimrat Kaur loses her Punjabi accent, or the director indulging in patriotism towards the end.
The comparison with Argo, perhaps holds grain due to the ‘lack of urgency’ in the film’s second half, which can be reasoned that Argo and Airlift are two different stories based on true incidents with different characters, and different genres where the former was a political thriller and latter a tale of survival. Akshay Kumar’s Ranjit Katyal is different from Ben Affleck’s Tom Mendez.
Furthermore, a character who abhors the notion of patriotism and is almost a Kuwaiti, is bound to feel emotional on connecting with his roots in the times of crisis – like he aptly puts in one of the scenes, saying that it’s only when one is hurt, does one cry out his/her mother’s name.
So the so-called patriotic tones in the film is quite obvious, especially when over 1,70,000 refugees are eagerly awaiting to see their country’s flag fluttering as their only hope to be rescued. The songs are just fine as long as they don’t eclipse the narrative, which they obviously don’t.
Well, this isn’t some defense against criticism of Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift, but the point I am trying to drive home is criticism for the sake of criticism isn’t a virtue worth celebrating. All through the film, I could hear people trying to find faults at the accent of even character artists, the backdrop of a war-torn city. Sample these: How can they roam around like that? Why doesn’t Akshay Kumar get shot by anyone? Why can’t those soldiers simply bomb the entire refugee camp instead of pillaging and searching for Kuwaitis?
Nimrat Kaur, in one of the poignant scenes of Airlift, states that there are two ways of living: Either live criticizing others for their mistakes or dare to make your own mistakes. Got the drift? So watch Airlift!