Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Airlift | The corny movie review by Navin

Akshay Kumar does what he has learned to do best since the last couple of years - Play the savior of the masses. 

Airlift is about the (plight and) evacuation of the Indian diaspora when the Iraqis invaded Kuwait in the morning of 2nd August 1990. 

As a person who was personally affected by what happened during this period in Kuwait, I can tell you this movie is 30% fact, 70% fluff/fiction

Of course, Airlift wasn't made as a documentary nor is it going to win any awards for authenticity, yet the shameless and inaccurate way historical facts were omitted/edited does a lot of disservice, especially to the memories of all those made the exodus and those who couldn't. 
Here are some realities that the movie conveniently omitted - 
  • Iraqis didn't go about looting individual homes.  There were some sections of elite streets that were protected by well-trained armed guards and many of these homes were not touched by looters. Infact, I know lots of Indians (who were stranded there simply because they couldn't afford the journey back to India) who looted unguarded homes of people who left Kuwait once the Iraqi armed forces' were engaged by the coalition during Operation Desert Storm/Sheild.
  • Iraqis didn't have the patience to interrogate you. The way the Iraqi soldiers rough up Akshay's character in the beginning of the movie is very tame considering the reality. They will kick the sputum out of you and you will be lucky to walk upright if you don't end up dead. If you were a Kuwaiti, you would either be raped (if female) or shot in cold blood (if male). Period. A general exception to the rule was if you were an Indian, some in the higher ranks were genuinely curious and polite to you. 
  • Iraqis did rape and torture a lot of men, women and children. Thousands of Kuwaitis were taken POWs and the 'Save the POWs' movement after the war was a national effort that paid off many years later.
  • Hotels, museums and other public places were looted and vandalised beyond belief. Priceless Picassos and the finest Italian marble floors were stripped and trucked to Baghdad within the first week of the invasion. So were exotic and expensive cars and other treasures. You could not imagine driving around in anything beyond a Toyota and if you were driving in a Rolls Royce, you'd be really lucky if you didn't die while being 'relieved' of your car. 
  • Torture camps were set up at local football grounds where Kuwaiti men were 'treated' to Iraqi 'hospitality'.
  • Many people (read Indians) took this opportunity to make a quick buck. Gullible expats were extorted off their valuables for a safe passage out of Kuwait. 
  • The ruling family (The Al Sabah family) fled the country minutes before the first tanks rolled into the city. One of the brothers of the royal family was killed and his 'martyrdom' was celebrated after the Iraqis retreated.
  • The country's infrastructure was completely wrecked and devastated and beaches and deserts remained out of bounds for many months after the invasion because of mines. 
  • Fuel was a premium and many people would abandon their vehicles simply because they couldn't get fueled up. How a gas-guzzling Rolls Royce and the many buses managed to tank up in that crisis is a work of pure fiction. 
  • Checkpoints were ruthlessly guarded and unless you were part of the Iraqi army, you weren't going to get through those check posts without getting shot at by a tank. 
  • Iraqis didn't speak English or Hindi. Most were just illiterate, young men forced into the army.
  • After the first month, Iraqis were getting ambushed by the local resistance in Kuwait. So there were a lot of Iraqi soldiers who were getting killed and living in fear.
  • Iraqis would never address Saddam Hussein the way the General did in the movie. And for the same reason, Iraqis would never even think (let alone utter) something or say something against the 'Knight of the Arab nation' or a member of the Baathist party. Mere rumor of such a thought was enough for Uday or Qusay Hussein to kidnap, torture and execute the originator of such a thought and his/her entire families. 
  • The roads leading out of Kuwait were not as smooth and obstacle-free as it appeared in the movie. There were human body parts, abandoned cars, mines, burned out trucks, fire from oil fields, ominous presence of Iraqi patrols, and absolute anarchy. The Highway of Death wasn't fiction and the roads leading out of Kuwait was bad much before the coalition rained on the Iraqi parade.
  • Nothing is mentioned about their passage through Baghdad (which itself was a very modern city at that time) into Jordan. 
  • And finally, why isn't IK Gujral ever mentioned as being pivotal to this exodus? Perhaps, pandering to the fragile whims of the current regime. I'll let you decide.
And the list of inaccuracies could go on.

Would I recommend?
Airlift is yet another proof of how Bollywood doesn't have the maturity to recreate historical facts with accuracy, and this could because they don't have the money to do it or the willingness to say the vanilla truth. Airlift clearly isn't a Green Zone or even a Argo.
The Director lacks the technical finesse to tell a story like this and it shows. Who hires an actor who has a very thick South Indian accent to play an Iraqi General?!!!

Airlift is Bollywoodised and the many songs and a totally inappropriate dance (that never happened) compromised the integrity of what could have been a great movie.
Stay away if you know what really happened during those dark months in Kuwait. Watching this movie made my blood boil with outrage at how facts were misrepresented. 

My rating: 1 (and I'm being really generous here..)

What does the rating mean? 
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theater.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

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