By Yukti Agarwal:
“Yeh sub news main mein dekhta tha, par aisa kabhi nahi laga ki ek din hum bhi news material bun jaate (I used to see all this in the news, but I never thought that one day we would ourselves become news),” said Poonawala (played by Kaizaad Kotwal) in the recently released movie Airlift, starring Akshay Kumar, as Ranjit Katyal, the protagonist, and Nimrat Kaur, as Amrita Katyal.
I will not waste any time in describing the movie because the true description of this marvelous piece of art can be done justice only when witnessed by one oneself. To me, this is a movie that is a portrayal of a plethora of character traits like pride, dignity, respect, courage, intrepidity, love and sympathy for those around you, trust and a burning want to live another day, to survive and be rescued, saved, airlifted.
This movie has truly succeeded in creating a conflict in my mind. On one hand, I am proud of being an Indian. Because we Indians executed the world’s largest evacuation. Because we saved 1,70,000 people of our country. Because we cared so much for our people. And mostly, because we Indians stood by each other when we really, desperately needed that moral support and help. On the other hand, I am appalled by the moral slackness showed by people, where one human doesn’t stand for a fellow human, where one human will readily shoot another with a gun, rape another with their hands and bodies, run over the other with tanks, steal another’s food, where one human will forget their humanity and only see the futile aspects of life which, sadly, do include even nationality.
A common government ‘babu’, Sanjeev Kohli without having known any of those people, fought with the Indian government, persuaded pilots, woke up in the middle of the night, and worked relentlessly, just to save those people, even when all the credit would be taken by a useless, good-for-nothing politician. In this movie, a businessman, a man who could have escaped from the terrors of that war, the Iraqi soldiers and the cheap, contemptible, immoral politics, and the entire conflict itself, stayed behind and stood alongside humanity. And I am not saying he took the side of Indians. No, I am saying humanity. Not just because he helped save a Kuwaiti, but because he didn’t see her as Kuwaiti even when the people around him did. He saw or rather perceived her to be, more than that, to be a mother, a woman, a person who was suffering just like he was, and most importantly, a human. He saw beyond the confines of seeing people by their nationality. He saw beyond and above futile labels and names given to people on the basis of their place of birth, skin colour or mother tongue. And he could have sent her away, he could have easily given her into the hands of the Iraqi soldiers at the checkpoint when her identity was revealed, where she would have been raped and stripped off her dignity, her pride, and her humanity. But he did not; he courageously fought for her life, indirectly fighting for humanity.
There are some movies that actually make me want to respect and honour the story and the way it is portrayed, and this was definitely one of those.
It had me in tears, because the country whose government I believed to be redundant and slack, today in my eyes did more than any other government.
Although this movie does revolve around Indians, it also gives a wide vision of the utter plight and predicament that any country would go through during war. This was the story of Kuwait, what happened when the vile, inhumane, president of Iraq, the ‘Great’ Saddam Hussein, launched a surprise attack on Kuwait, killing civilians and damaging property, and life. It may be local in its setting, but it is global in its reach. Kuwaiti’s are not Palestinians, but they know how it feels when one’s land is stolen from them. So do Syrians, Yemenis, and Afghanis.
I write this to honour each person who was affected physically, mentally or emotionally during this invasion. Rather, this story is for humanity, so I write this in honour of all those affected by the game of monopoly in political, geographic, or economic interests, and all those affected by war.
My heart goes out to the girls who are groped by soldiers like Poonawala’s daughter was when the Iraqi soldiers came to loot the Indian camp, or when the soldier said, “let my boys have some fun” when the Kuwaiti woman was taken away from the protagonist Ranjit Katyal. My heart goes out to those children who have to listen to the noise of bombs exploding, or guns shots echoing instead of lullabies, and play with bullets instead of toys. My heart goes out to each man who has to act like the man of the family and always keep a strong façade for his family, to prevent them from loosing hope. My heart goes out to those who grieve for their lost ones, and mostly my heart goes out for humanity because this is what we have been reduced to.
This movie is a must see because it makes you feel like a proud Indian, albeit a useless human being and also utterly fortunate for not having to experience the events depicted first hand.