Starring: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli, Feryna Wazheir, Inaamulhaq, Prakash Belawadi, Lena Kumar, Kumud Mishra
Directed by: Raja Krishna Menon
I tend to avoid most Akshay Kumar movies. In recent years, he’s had many, many releases, possibly the most out of his generation of Bollywood actors, but I’ve only seen a handful of them. It’s not hi
m I avoid, but the type of film or roles he tends to choose. Every now and then people will say he’s doing something different… but it never is, really. To top it all off, Airlift just seemed like a rip off of Argo, despite being advertised as a true story, so I wasn’t too sure what I’d end up making of it, so seeing it a couple of days before release and for free definitely had something to do with me actually going to see it.
Akshay Kumar plays a rich businessman, Ranjit Katiyal, based in Kuwait in 1990, and at the beginning of the film he and his other Indian friends based out there couldn’t be happier to be known as Kuwaitis rather than Indians. But then Saddam Hussein invades, and the Iraqi army are killing off any Kuwaiti nationals they can find, and suddenly being a well connected Indian is the only thing saving him. He grows a conscience out of nowhere, becoming adamant he won’t leave Kuwait unless the other 170,000 Indians stuck there can get out as well, and so does everything he possibly can to help them.
Akshay Kumar’s characters are almost always the ultimate do-gooder, even if they don’t start out that way, which is why I don’t find it particularly interesting to watch him because you know exactly what you’re going to get. In the case of Airlift, I guess it was necessary, which is why he was probably the best choice for the role, but he himself is kind of dull to watch. Nimrat Kaur (The Lunchbox, TRS ads) on the other hand, who plays his wife Amrita, is great. It’s a shame she hasn’t been in more since doing The Lunchbox. It’s not a massive role, but it gives her a few good moments, and I imagine it’s more than some actresses get to do in other Akshay Kumar films. Purab Kohli also does well in leaving an impression in a supporting role.
Airlift starts off pretty dreadfully, in the most ‘Bollywood’ of set ups, introducing the main character with a personality that’s about to switch completely, plus an awkward and unnecessary item song. Once the actual story starts, the film gets interesting, and is competently told, though not the exhilarating thriller it might have set out to be. There are plenty of examples of recognizable desi pettiness, which made me cringe watching it, but it’s an important part of the story. This is the director, Raja Krishna Menon’s first film in quite a few years, his other two I’ve never heard of, but maybe this is the kind of story he is more suited to. Even the end has its moments of melodrama, featuring the most dramatic and overly long shot of the Indian flag that I’ve seen in a film for a long time, but by the end these moments are more forgiveable. The film could have actually been a bit more dramatic than it was, not that they should have exaggerated or stretched the truth, but you’re told more than shown about the danger these Indians were in, which doesn’t have the same impact.
I think the relief, more than anything else, of it not being an attempt at remaking Argo is what won me over, but Airlift is actually very watchable. At just two hours, it also doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is extremely important. I hope they didn’t take too many creative liberties with the story, because if it did actually happen on the scale they say it did, it’s quite incredible, even though the scale of it isn’t captured all that convincingly.
Airlift is out now.