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Hijack Hassles

Friday, February 19, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

As Ram Madhvani’s film Neerja about the flight attendant on the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73 that was hijacked by terrorists in 1986. She was killed by them while trying to shield the passengers. It is a story of extraordinary courage, and even if it’s late in the day, it deserves to be told.

While many Hollywood films have crisis-in-the-air (Die Hard 2, Flight Plan, Con Air, Executive Decision, United 93, etc) plots, Bollywood has not taken to it yet. In 2008, there was a film called Hijack, based on the Kandahar episode in 1999, when an Indian Airlines flight was captured by a terrorist group to force the Indian government to release some terrorists from jail.

The review of the film that appeared then stated, “The only reason a person could be tempted to watch this film, it would be great action, thrilling subplots, and maybe strong emotional, or patriotic connect. Kunal Shivdasani’s debut film fails on these counts—if you have caught the promos, you have pretty much seen what there is to see…

Vikram Madaan (Shiney Ahuja) is the maintenance chief at Chandigarh airport, a widower (you see a quick wooing of girl, song, marriage and her death) with a traumatic past. His daughter, Priya (Ishita Chauhan), is on the Delhi-Amritsar flight, that is hijacked by a group of terrorists, and forced to land in Chandigarh for refuelling to Dubai. They want the release of their team mate, Rasheed Omar (KK Raina), in return for releasing hostages.

Before the flight takes off, there is a quick look at some of the passengers, marked for death—a honeymooning couple (this from the real life Khandahar hijack), an irritating, bickering Parsi couple and a bunch of teens sneaking off on a holiday (to Amritsar!)—curiously unaffected by a bomb blast that has just taken place in the disco where they were partying the night before, with the mandatory, tiredly shot item number. What is more disturbing, however, is seeing the power bestowed on armed men, who kill at random, and helpless people grovelling before them. The terrorists are Allah-o-Akbar shouting caricatures, and the home minister and his team made to look like complete idiots. (There is a Miss Simone in a suit too, borrowed from Capitol Hill, no doubt).

As a bunch of inept functionaries go “Yessir” Vikram sneaks aboard the plane, and with the help of an air hostess Saira, (Esha Deol) takes on the terrorists.

It’s a paint-by-numbers film with not a single moment of suspense, high tension or that heart-in-mouth feeling that is a hallmark of a good thriller, no matter how formulaic it may be.”

Hopefully, things can only improve from here…

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