Neerja is a biopic and a cinematic representation of the dramatic events that unfolded on September 5th, 1986 when Pan Am Flight 73 from Bombay to New York was hijacked in transit at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi by Palestinian extremists from Abu Nidal’s terrorist outfit.
This is the story of Neerja Bhanot, a 22-year-old part-time model, who was the head purser on the flight. Neerja had escaped an abusive marriage and, as a life change, decided to become an airhostess, subsequently impressing everyone so much that they made her a purser.
Throughout the horrifying ordeal, Neerja didn’t succumb to her fears and instead fought her personal demons from the past and, from the minute the plane was hijacked through the terrifying 17 hours to the grueling end, used her courage, wits and compassion to make sure the passengers were protected, going so far as to hide the passports of the American passengers. Through her swift thinking and brave actions, she managed to save the lives of 359 passengers and crew on board out of 379, all at the cost of her own life.
Neerja was hailed internationally as ‘the heroine of the hijack’ and posthumously became the youngest recipient of India’s highest civilian honour for bravery, the Ashoka Chakra; was bestowed the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism award by USA; Tamgha-e-Insaaniyat (awarded for showing incredible human kindness) by Pakistan; Justice for Crimes Award by United States Attorney’s Office for the district of Columbia; Special Courage Award by the US government; and the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry’s Award.
This is a portrayal of Neerja’s strength, courage and sacrifice and an attempt to bring before the world this lesser known Indian hero’s story, so that she becomes an example and inspiration to girls the world over for generations to come.
Neerja is produced by Fox Star Studios and co-produced by Bling Unplugged and has been directed by celebrated ad film director, Ram Madhvani. Actress Sonam Kapoor is playing the role of the young brave heart and adding to the cast is veteran and internationally renowned actress, Shabana Azmi, playing the role of Neerja’s mother.
20th Century Fox will release Neerja in UK cinemas on 19th February 2016.