She’s the new darling of the industry, and why not? Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja, a biopic on the courageous air hostess who sacrificed her life to save 359 passengers on board the hijacked PanAm flight in 1986, opened to a great first day on Friday, and is already being hailed as one of this year’s best, and even the biggest, films.
Is Neerja the lifeline Sonam needed so badly to sustain her fledgling career in the industry? Will Neerja help Sonam step out now as a bonafide actor who’s got more to her than a famous father and those designer clothes?
Whatever that may be, the fact is that Ram Madhvani film is also about many things most of us hold close to our heart. Here’s a list of life-lessons all of us could learn from Neerja.
1. Love and live life
The film opens with Sonam getting off a cab and bidding goodbye to the cabbie with one of Bollywood’s most iconic dialogues: ‘Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi.’ The under current of this Rajesh Khanna dialogue from Anand (1971) is felt throughout the film. Despite the tragic and painful experiences of the characters, they enjoy small things of life. Yes, Neerja is in love with life, and we all love her for her spirit.
2. Your family may be overbearing at times, but never stop loving them
How many times have you snapped back at your mother when she insists you don’t leave home without eating something? Remember the bitter fights you’ve had with your siblings for the magazine you both wanted? The film reminds us, in its own sensitive way, that these ‘fights’ are what add spice to life. However big the fight is, whatever the excuse, one thing we never lose is the love for each other.
3. Think of solutions
During the hijack-episode, Neerja often tends to panic — when she witnesses the first murder, when the hijackers frisk her, and when they torture a child. The gruesomeness scares her, but the brave flight purser composes herself and starts thinking of solutions to get out of the situation. Remember, when the situation threatens to go out of control, fear and panic is natural reaction, but it should never cloud our judgement and focus.
4. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but you can make do with cookies when proposing to her
So just before making her final move to ensure the safety of the passengers on board, Neerja decides to open a birthday gift, a ‘special friend’ gave her. Along with a sweet love-cum-proposal letter for marriage, she finds a chocolate cookie! The poor girl is famished, battling against the hijackers trying to save her passengers, and then there is a cookie: What a gesture of love!
5. Support your kids
In one of the flashback scenes, Neerja’s mother (Shabana Azmi) scolds her for ‘running away’ from her marriage and giving sermons on how as a woman, she must learn to adjust. The next moment, Shabana realises her daughter was in an abusive marriage. Suddenly, she is ready to give up all her notions of femininity and stands with her daughter. You may have missed asking them to prioritise self-respect but when faced with a crisis, do not let them down.
6. Change the way we bring up our daughters
There is a heart-wrenching and moving speech by Shabana towards the end of the movie. One, where Neerja’s mother talks about how she brought up her daughter. The way she humbly says ‘I never taught her to be a hero’ underlines the gender discrimination in our society.
She even says, Humare mein bhaiyo ko veer bolte hain. Veer ko behenein rakhi bandhti hain taaki wo unki raksha karein. Beheno se to koi nahi kehta raksha karne ko. Maine use kabhi nahi bataya, pata nahi kaha se usne sabke liye jeena seekh liya. Stop telling your daughter she needs to adjust because she’s a woman and her man won’t because he’s the man. Just, stop.