One of the most eagerly awaited Bollywood films of 2016 was released just as the east coast of the U.S. prepared for the arrival of a Jonas, a winter blizzard of epic proportions. We braved the elements to view the first showing (and possibly the last of this opening weekend) of the film Airlift.
The film made the potentially hazardous journey worth it.
Airlift recounts the story of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait which precipitated the start of the First Gulf War.
Once again, Akshay Kumar is in top form. As Ranjit Katiyal, a rich Indian businessman living in Kuwait, he sees his world descend quickly into chaos when more than 100,000 Iraqi troops invaded their oil-rich neighbor. Saddam Hussein sought to annex Kuwait and make it Iraq's 19th province. According to History Channel:
At about 2 a.m. local time, Iraqi forces invade Kuwait, Iraq’s tiny, oil-rich neighbor. Kuwait’s defense forces were rapidly overwhelmed, and those that were not destroyed retreated to Saudi Arabia. The emir of Kuwait, his family, and other government leaders fled to Saudi Arabia, and within hours Kuwait City had been captured and the Iraqis had established a provincial government. By annexing Kuwait, Iraq gained control of 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves and, for the first time, a substantial coastline on the Persian Gulf. The same day, the United Nations Security Council unanimously denounced the invasion and demanded Iraq’s immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. On August 6, the Security Council imposed a worldwide ban on trade with Iraq.
Kuwait City was unprepared for the invasion. While Iraq seized control of the capitol and the country's rich oilfields, Kuwait's emir escaped into the desert leaving his younger half-brother behind to defend their home. In a retrospective about the invasion, Deseret News explained:
Compared to this massive force that, on paper, made the Iraqi military one of the largest on the planet, the Kuwaitis boasted an army of only 16,000 men. Decimating the Kuwaiti army, the Iraqis swiftly moved into the small nation. The elite Republican Guard units positioned themselves along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border, threatening not only Saudi Arabia, but also the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.
The invasion plunged the Persian Gulf region into crisis.
Leading up to the film, Akshay Kumar posted a series of videos by Indians who experienced the events in Kuwait first-hand:
Airlift provides an on-the-ground glimpse of the invasion of Kuwait through the eyes of civilians. It highlights the tragic events as homes are ransacked, property is destroyed and hundreds of lives are taken indiscriminately. As their world is turned upside down, Ranjit and his wife, Amrita Katiyal (Nimrat Kaur), struggle to leave the country which has been their home for many years.
Along the way, Ranjit come to recognize the responsibility he has for the lives of those who work for him. He seeks to secure a safe future for his employees before he leaves the country. As friends and family learn that someone is taking action to help them, Ranjit finds himself leading efforts to protect and transport thousands of Indian nationals out of an environment that is becoming more dangerous every day.
While the film highlights the impact of the Iraqi military, it is not a war film. Its primary focus is on the political situation and how Ranjit uses his business acumen to negotiate with the Iraqi soldiers and government to convince them to allow over 170,000 Indians to leave the country. As promises are made and broken, the situation becomes more tense. Ranjit's perseverance and determination helps keep hope alive.
Airlift is a study in resilience in dire circumstances and our responsibility toward others, especially those in need. It is real and raw and while there isn't anything earth-shattering in terms of plotline, the film juxtaposes the best and the worst of humanity and provides a must-see story that is intense, moving, and memorable.
The following playlist features countdowns, the trailer and a making of video for Airlift.
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