Neerja has received better reviews than Airlift, making the Sonam Kapoor starrer the most critically acclaimed film of 2016. It’s also the best received film in the last 6 months or so.
Neerja Review by Indicine
With Neerja, director Ram Madhavani gives us a film that is grim and hard-hitting, real and terrifying. Neerja is not a film that you watch for entertainment, it’s a depressing watch because a story where a 23 year old sacrifices her life to defend passengers on board her plane, is deeply tragic and heart-wrenching. The pacing of the 2-hour long film is just right, giving the audience enough time to both digest the proceedings and get involved in the narrative.
Neerja Review by Bollywood Hungama
NEERJA is a must watch ode to the youngest recipient of the highest civilian honour Ashok Chakra for displaying extraordinary courage and human kindness. It is a film that will make you stand up for what’s genuinely Right without bothering about nationality, religion, sex, cast or colour of the skin. Most importantly as a movie watching experience, you’ll be glued to the movie screen with tears and admiration welling up in your eyes. NEERJA is a movie that will make you a better person. Don’t miss it!
Neerja Review by Lokesh Dharmani on Masala
The film does have a couple of flaws. It tends to get a bit slow and manipulative in between. But these are small hiccups in a film that besides telling an inspiring, fearless story briefly comments on the need to bring up our daughters as fearlessly as we bring up our sons. Shabana Azmi nails it in that last scene.
Neerja Review by Manjusha Radhakrishnan on Gulfnews
Kapoor isn’t far behind. She earnestly tries to recreate Bhanot’s fateful encounter with armed Palestinian terrorists. There’s no razzle-dazzle or swanky designer clothes to distract us from her performance and that’s a good thing. With hardly any sign of self-indulgence, Kapoor gives a real spin to the hijack ordeal. The scenes of her troubled past, in which she walks away from an abusive arranged marriage, are juxtaposed well with the hijack drama.
Neerja Review by Sreeju Sudhakaran on Bollywood Life
The biggest positive I can say about the film, and I would want to say right at the start itself, the film never lets down the spirit of Neerja Bhanot. While Bollywood biopics have the tendency to put masala in stories of real life personalities, Neerja thankfully avoids that! If Neerja was a hero in real life, Ram Madhvani is the real hero of the film. It is to his credit that he has made such a compelling drama that will keep you on the edge of your seats. The entire hijacking situation is so brilliantly shot that you feel that you are a part of the life threatening drama. The tension you feel in the scenes are palpable, especially when the terrorists realise there is no hope for them and they become reckless. The docu style camera work heightens the sense of claustrophobia in you. The background score is tense and brilliantly done. But where Ram Madhvani actually scores is how he shot the final moments of Neerja’s sacrifice – intense yet emotionally wrought. If those scenes don’t bring tears from your eyes, your heart is definitely made of stone. Another thing that worked for the film is the casting. From the main leads to even the supporting ones, everyone has done Justice to their roles. The makers must be lauded for choosing relative new comers in the other roles, as it works in creating a sense of realism. The actors playing the terrorists totally look their part, especially the one playing Khalil. But the film would not have been what it is, if it was not for the film’s main leads. Despite her limitations (her voice is still not so easy to adjust), Sonam is the heart and soul of the film. This is a role that she can show her detractors and ask them to just shut up! She is terrific, especially in the second half, where her eyes speak a lot, of fear, of courage. Shabana Azmi is great, as always and her final speech will definitely make you cry if you haven’t started yet. In his debut role, composer Shekhar Ravjiani is pretty likeable in his small role.
Neerja Review by Zeenews
Here’s Sonam Kapoor’s, for once in a long time, beautifully portrayed biopic of Neerja Bhanot. Board the flight, for it’s safe, simply for Neerja – even if the plane goes down, you know you will remember this skinny, twenty-something undaunted air hostess for her never-ending commitment and kindness towards the passengers. ‘Neerja’ is definitely a white-knuckle ride, take it if you have the courage for it.
Review by Saibal Chatterjee on NDTVMovies
Sonam is of course the lynchpin. Even when pushed well out of her comfort zone, she is completely convincing and real as the bubbly youngster with nerves of steel. Shabana Azmi informs her role with subtle nuances that add startling layers to the characterization. Yogendra Tiku, a competent actor who rarely gets the play he deserves in Hindi cinema, conveys the welled-up emotions of a father egging her daughter on to be in control of her own life.
Review by Sarita A Tanwar on DNA India
Every character is carefully crafted – Neerja’s fan moments for Rajesh Khanna are a delight and their culmination in the climax is a whopper. The relationship between Neerja and her mother is the most beautiful part in the film – it will choke you with emotion at every level leading to a crescendo as the film ends. In terms of screen time, Madhvani doesn’t have much of it to establish the bond between Neerja and her ‘close’ friend (Ravjiani). In spite of that, the emotions are still in the right place – that’s the director’s magic touch. From the time the screenplay gets inside the aircraft, every moment is edge-of-the-seat. Even though you know what’s in store next, you are left guessing.
Review by Jaidev Hemmady on Movietalkies
As for the direction, Ram Madhwani, who comes back to film direction after the 2002 film Let’s Talk, has done a commendable job. Madhwani has not focused only on the hijack drama, but has also offered glimpses of Neerja’s personal life, which makes the narrative more relatable. The section of the film once the plane is hijacked is taut, thrilling and terrific and will keep you hooked to the screen. The narrative unfolds so superbly that you end up rooting for Neerja’s life, despite the knowledge of her death. The realistic way the film has been shot and presented too works in its favour as there are no unnecessary scenes or over-the-top dialogues or cringe-worthy melodrama.
Review by Mehul S Thakkar on Deccan Chronicle
Ram Madhvani’s detailed research on this topic is commendable and he brings out all the sides of her life but keeps himself detached from it. Even the scenes inside the plane don’t seem to be just from a single perspective. Ram has managed to bring out all perspectives to ensure the most accurate portrayal of the brave girl is brought out in front of the audience. The biggest victory is the Pam Am plane, which was entirely reconstructed matching everything to how it originally was. Saiwyn Quadras’s (writer of Marry Kom) dialogues and screenplay is so tight that not once it makes you feel disinterested.
Review by Martin D’Souza on Glamsham
Sonam Kapoor finally gets her due and a role she stands up to with her chin up. She absorbs Neerja and makes her, her own. I’m sure the Bhanot family, when they see the movie, will identify with their daughter through Sonam’s depiction of India’s brave heart. Neerja became the youngest recipient of The Ashok Chakra (posthumously) India’s highest peacetime military award for bravery. This followed awards from Pakistan and the US as well. Neerja died two days short of her 23rd birthday. NEERJA, the movie, celebrates one of our own. More importantly it celebrates humanity and service before self. A brave movie! A poignant tale! A movie worth going miles to see!
Review by Shubhra Gupta on Indian Express
Minus the songs and the excessive schmaltz, ‘Neerja’ could have been outstanding. But still, the film holds, and hold us with it. Both Shabana Azmi and Tikku, as the parents hoping for the best and dreading the worst for their ‘Laado’ (Neerja’s ‘pet name’), are excellent. They shine a light on the tragically-cut-short life of their daughter, a true inspirational heroine whose deeds need more than a memorial. They need to be remembered.
Review by Ananya Bhattacharya on India Today
Ram Madhvani has crafted a story that will move the coldest of hearts. Nothing much happens in the film, action-wise, per se. But your gut is forever clenched, you’re always on the edge of your seat. There’s a sense of fear and foreboding, the burden of the knowledge of what is to come. Madhvani, along with writers Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh help get an outpouring of emotions from viewers.
Review by Rohit Vats on Hindustan Times
Neerja shows Madhvani’s meticulous planning as a director, even though it tilts in favour of some melodrama. The film arrives straight to the point and starts building a tension that remains with the audience till the end. Parallel narratives between Mumbai and Karachi bring out the conflict that ensued, and you subconsciously begin rooting for Neerja.
Review by Sonia Chopra on Sify
Director Ram Madhvani and writer Saiwyn Quadras tell us the story flitting between time-lines. It’s masterful how the central character’s present situation (the hijack) takes her back to the days of her abusive marriage. These intercuts show us a unique insight into the probable workings of her mind at the time. And the fact that she chooses to remember what her father always said to her, “Galat kaam na karna, na sehna” (don’t do wrong, don’t tolerate wrong). Adding to the astute writing-direction are strong performances, sharp cinematography and editing, flawless production design bringing out the ‘80s in an elegant, understated manner, and wonderful songs.
Review by Raja Sen on Rediff
This is the kind of performance that defines an actor, and Kapoor is so coolly evocative in the part — and her vulnerability so well captured by Madhvani — that I found myself rooting for her to escape, wishing that I knew the facts wrong and that Neerja made it out alive. If anyone, that sensational young woman deserved to live. The frequently claustrophobic, frequently handheld cinematography adds to the feeling of narrative turbulence even though the plane is stationary. Cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani captures the rising anxiety with a perpetually moving camera and his frames are made special by abrupt pans: The view swings down suddenly, rapidly, to briefly peek at a nervous child peeing, or at a dog scratching himself restlessly next to his sleeping mistress. Madhvani paces the film masterfully, making for a highstrung but justifiably emotional narrative.
Review by Shubha Shetty-Saha on Mid-Day India
While dealing with a subject of this sort, it is easy to flounder and be tempted to go overboard with melodrama and overtures. But thankfully, Ram Madhvani stays sincere to the story in hand and presents us with a real, believable film that keeps you involved every minute of its two-hour duration. He also gets the best out of his carefully handpicked cast.
Review by Meena Iyer on The Times Of India
Sonam’s Neerja quietly seals a place in your heart. There are no theatrics; she’s dignified, strong and real. Shabana as the bereaved mother makes her grief yours, her daughter’s glory also yours. Yogendra Tiku lends able support and Khalil(theatre actor, Jim Sarbh) as the maniacal terrorist is terrific. This one raises a toast to the daunting spirit of India’s daughters; every one of us must salute Neerja.
Review by Rajeev Masand on IBNLive
Yogendra Tikku is perfectly cast in the role of Neerja’s father, effectively offering a glimpse into the welled-up emotions of a concerned parent. Shabana Azmi owns practically every scene she’s in, adding little realistic touches to make the character her own. Even in the film’s overlong climatic speech scene, which borders on the mawkish, she gnarls at your insides as she speaks about losing her daughter. There are a few things, however, that don’t work. A badly placed song in the second half (even if only in the background) doesn’t serve well. Also you wish the film were tighter and crisper, particularly in the second half. The feeling that you’re being manipulated – rather than feeling genuinely invested in what’s going on – pops up a few times too. But these are minor complaints in what is evidently a well-intentioned, heartfelt film that pays tribute to a real hero.
Review by Kunal Guha on Mumbai Mirror
Ram Madhvani, known to most as an award-winning ad filmmaker, made his debut with Let’s Talk (2002), an indie film that explores the various facets of adultery. Here, he tightly packs the chain of events that lead up to the inevitable. The obvious challenge would’ve been infusing fear and thrill into a story with a known ending. This, he accomplishes by throwing in surprises as the terrorists have sporadic outbursts and frantic fits as the holes in their mission begin to surface. Cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani ensures he has complete control over what you see and don’t. So to show how different passengers deal with terror, a pan across the cabin with no particular focus manages this in a subtle yet effective way. If you’ve read about the real events that have inspired this film, you know how it will fold up. But even so, this one scores for managing to pack in a few surprises.
Neerja Review by Indiaglitz
In the second half of the film, the family scenes should have been trimmed down as they mellow down the intensity of the hijack drama. Also, the jerky camera angles in the start of the film seemed bit distracting. Also, music is not required in such type of films as it affects the flow of the film. ‘Neerja’ is one of India’s finest hijack based film presented in total thrilling and emotional manner. It narrates the tale of the unsung hero and deserves to be watched and respected by every Indian.
Review by Manisha Lakhe on Nowrunning
The director also cleverly deploys the art of quick little flashbacks throughout the movie to help us get into the head of the protagonist. Neerja, played rather competently by Sonam Kapoor surprises us with her acting chops. Considering her filmography, you dread her breaking into a mad Khoobsoorat turn. But she’s so restrained you are happy she chose the role to prove her detractors wrong.
Review by Aashi Gahlot on Bollyspice
The horror of such an event is difficult to fathom. However, with Sonam Kapoor’s stellar performance and with the intensity of the characters playing the crazed hijackers, this film will leave you shell-shocked. Sonam Kapoor’s depiction of Neerja Bhanot is proof that Sonam is an actress that has got what it takes. Her critics have at last been proven wrong! The sensitivity and strength required for Neerja’s character must have been a balancing act, one that Sonam has got spot on.
Review by meeta on Wogma
One could complain that the film could have been shorter making it crisper because after all it is almost two hours of being stuck in a plane. However, I would stop myself short while doing that, because it is about hijacked people who were stuck with terrorists in a plane for 16-17 hours. Remember we got breaks in the form of flashbacks. Other than that, sure, there is drama in the form of tight close-ups and use hand-held cameras. But it is not overdone. Maybe the Rajesh Khanna bit is a little over-the-top, here’s hoping that Neerja Bhanot was really that big a fan.
Average critic ratings of other movies released in 2015 – 2016
- Fitoor – 2.3 stars
- Sanam Re – 1.6 stars
- Ghayal Once Again – 2.4 stars
- Sanam Teri Kasam – 1.6 stars
- Saala Khadoos – 2.6 stars
- Mastizaade – 1 stars
- Airlift – 3.7 stars
- Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 – 1 stars
- Wazir – 2.5 stars
- Dilwale – 2.5 stars
- Bajirao Mastani – 3.2 stars
- Hate Story 3 – 1.7 stars
- Tamasha – 3 stars
- Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – 2.7 stars
- Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 – 2.6 stars