This realistic Bollywood drama about a real-life tale of heroism has shades of 'Argo'
‘Bollywood’ and ‘realism’ may not go hand in hand, but this is a worthy and largely successful attempt at meaningful commercial Hindi cinema. Based on true events, it follows the privileged life of Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), a successful Indian businessman living in Kuwait in 1990. When Saddam Hussein’s troops invade the city, hundreds of thousands of Indians living there are trapped. Singlehandedly, Ranjit organises aid for his compatriots and eventually takes charge of what is believed to be the largest civil evacuation in history: about 170,000 people were airlifted from the war-torn area.
Director Raja Menon eschews many of the elements of the masala formula. The focus is on the matter-of-fact telling of this fascinating ‘Argo’-like operation and the Oscar Schindler-style redemption of its male protagonist. Kumar, an ageing but firm A-list hero, sheds his hammy antics at last and delivers a solid, natural and heart-warming performance. Nimrat Kaur (‘The Lunchbox’) adds witty support as his feisty wife Amrita. It is rare to see imperfect married life portrayed with such perfection in mainstream Indian cinema. With the exception of what looks like a rushed ‘party song’ and an attempt at enforced patriotism at the climax, this is largely impressive filmmaking. It’s not a perfect film, but its compassion, vigour and restraint undoubtedly lift this above the usual Bollywood escapist fare
Cast and crew