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Neerja The film opens with 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) arriving late for a house party. Later that evening her mother (Shabana Azmi) expresses concern once about Neerja’s job as a flight attendant and suggests Neerja to return to her old job of modeling. Neerja likes her job and is driven to the airport by her boyfriend Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani). Neerja’s colleagues love Jaideep, he adores her and gives her an advance birthday present.

Neerja is a 2016 Indian Hindi-language biographical thriller film directed by Ram Madhvani. Written by Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh, the film stars Sonam Kapoor as the title character, and features Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku and Shekhar Ravjiani in supporting roles. The film was produced by Atul Kasbekar under the banner of Fox Star Studios.[3] The film revolves around the Libya backed Abu Nidal Organization’s hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan on 5 September 1986. The film is shown from the point of view of the flight’s head purser Neerja Bhanot who thwarted the hijack attempt by alerting the pilots, hence grounding the plane and saving the lives of 359 of the 379 other passengers and crew on board, giving her life in the effort to save the others.

The film released worldwide on February 19, 2016 to critical acclaim.[4][5][6][7] Made on a budget of 20 crore (US$3.0 million), the film earned over 135 crore (US$20 million) worldwide.

Neerja reflects on her brief and unhappy arranged marriage. Her former husband Naresh (Kavi Shastri) was a professional in Doha, Qatar. He constantly harangued and abused Neerja over dowry. (It is revealed that Neerja’s family had made it clear there would be no dowry, but the husband had expected otherwise) He also constantly abused Neerja as she could not cook or clean. She eventually returned home to honor a modeling contract. He sent back a humiliating letter attacking her parents about dowry, her lack of domestic skills and suggesting that she had better bring money back or not come back at all. She broke off with him and landed a highly competitive job with Pan Am Airways.

As Neerja boards Pan Am 73 it is revealed that a terrorist group has planned to hijack the plane in Karachi. The plane takes off from Mumbai’s Sahar International Airport and lands in Karachi where the four terrorists belonging to Abu Nidal’s organization board the plane disguised as security officers escorting a Libyan diplomat. They reveal themselves and hijack the plane. Neerja quickly alerts the cockpit and the three American pilots escape through the overhead hatch and run to the terminal despite firing by the terrorists.

When an Indian American accompanied by his handicapped old mother inadvertently reveals himself to be an American one of the terrorists grabs him and shoots him dead and throws him down the aircraft before the Pakistani negotiators. The terrorists try to locate a radio engineer among the passengers by having Neerja make an announcement over the intercom. Emran Ali (Shashi Bhushan), a Pakistani radio operator gets ready to stand up but Neerja signals him to sit down. Later the terrorists ask the flight attendants to collect the passports so as to locate the Americans and hold them hostage. Neerja and her colleagues collect the passports but skilfully avoid any American passports by kicking them under the seats or down the trash chutes. The terrorists, dejected over not finding any American passports, locate a British citizen and use him for negotiations.

The Pakistan negotiators inadvertently reveal the name of the radio engineer Emran Ali, who is located and roughly brought into the cockpit to start the radio and begin the negotiations. Their main demand is sending the pilots back to the aircraft to fly it to Cyprus and to demand for the release of their imprisoned colleagues languishing in jail. The Pakistani authorities try to stall for time. The terrorist leader chastises the other, younger terrorist who has begun roughing up the passengers and molesting the attendants. Angered by his public embarrassment the younger terrorist storms into the cockpit and shoots the radio engineer and in full defiance of his leader, screams wild threats over the radio. The terrorists are confused; the leader only wants to complete the mission but the younger man is now mad with rage and out of control. Pakistani air control is still negotiating but they are slowly losing control and time and the terrorists are getting agitated by the minute.

Around 17 hours later the plane loses auxiliary power and the lights go out inside. Despite Neerja and the other attendants trying to explain this as a normal airplane reaction, the terrorists believe the power was cut deliberately by the Pakistani armed forces who will soon storm into the plane. In a panic mode, they now begin shooting down passengers indiscriminately . At great peril to her own life, Neerja opens the rear door and deploys the chute and begins directing passengers down the chute. Neerja chooses to let the passengers escape first. In the end, she is shot and fatally injured by the terrorists when she tries to shield young children from the gunfire. The film ends with a tributary message to Neerja who was eventually honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military decoration awarded for valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield.

In the background we see a man holding a gun in the aisle of an airplane. Superimposed in the foreground, a hand presses the barrel of a handgun on a woman's forehead.

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ram Madhvani
Produced by Atul Kasbekar
Shanti Sivaram Maini
Bling Unplugged
Fox Star Studios
Written by Saiwyn Quadras
Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh (dialogues)
Screenplay by Saiwyn Quadras
Starring Sonam Kapoor
Shabana Azmi
Yogendra Tiku
Shekhar Ravjiani
Kavi Shastri
Sadh Orhan
Music by Vishal Khurana
Andy Biersack
Cinematography Mitesh Mirchandani
Edited by Monisha R Baldawa
Distributed by Fox Star Studios
Release dates
  • February 19, 2016 (2016-02-19)
Running time
122 minutes
Country India
Language Hindi
Budget 20 crore (US$3.0 million)[1]
Box office est. 135 crore (US$20 million)[2]