IIFA 2017: A good film is about more than its lead cast, as Neerja's Best Picture win over Udta Punjab shows

Devansh Sharma

Jul 16, 2017 15:49:06 IST

Abhishek Kapoor's Udta Punjab initially made headlines because the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refused to certify it. Exactly a year later, it is in the news owing to its lead actor, Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, winning the Best Performance in Leading Role (Male and Female, respectively) at the IIFA Awards 2017.

But the film failed to do what it intended to: start a conversation on the widespread availability and abuse of drugs in Punjab. It boasted of memorable performances from its actors, including the supporting cast of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh (who won the IIFA Best Debut Performance - Male award). But where it fell short was somewhere in not getting the central idea across.

 IIFA 2017: A good film is about more than its lead cast, as Neerjas Best Picture win over Udta Punjab shows
A still from Udta Punjab. Twitter

On the contrary, Ram Madhvani's period drama Neerja, which won the IIFA Best Film award this year, managed to achieve what it intended to. It brought to the fore the story of Neerja Bhanot, an air hostess who sacrificed her life to save the passengers of a hijacked Pan Am flight.

While Sonam Kapoor won laurels for her layered portrayal of Bhanot, the conversation around the film transcended that and touched upon Bhanot's remarkable achievement. Though she might have lost to Alia by a whisker, what she did gain for her film was a place in the larger consciousness of a country that has often forgotten its unsung heroes.

But as is the case, the credit for the same should extend to her entire team. Besides a great show by Shabana Azmi, Jim Sarbh and a host of supporting actors, Madhvani ensured every department of the film put its best foot forward.

The cinematography by Mitesh Mirchandani was par excellence as he shot multiple lengthy scenes in a single take with the help of his team. Madhvani had revealed that while the crew did extensive workshops before getting to the sets, they left a little room for improvisation. The last minute panic translated into the scene as well, particularly when the terrorists hijack the ill-fated aircraft.

Monisha Baldawa's editing deserves a word as well. She should be lauded for not allowing the length and smoothness of the takes to get the better of her editing instincts. Despite Madhvani resorting to the single take approach, Baldawa managed to incorporate her editing skills into the narrative by creatively juxtaposing Bhanot's predicament with her past issues and ensuring sleek transitions between them.

Sonam Kapoor in a still from Neerja

Similarly, Saiwyn Quadras was also spot on with his screenplay. His ability to pen the chaotic flight sequences and the unnervingly quiet scenes of Shabana Azmi back home with equal conviction bears testimony to his craftsmanship. Also, the sub plots of Bhanot's love for Rajesh Khanna and the rescue operations carried out by the Pakistan establishment allowed the film to be viewed from multifarious perspectives, both micro and macro.

Vishal Khurana's fresh music, Aparna Sud's infallible production design and Madhvani's assured direction also added substantially to the film. Even at the box office, Sonam's film earned Rs 75.61 crore, far ahead of Udta Punjab which could manage only Rs 60 crore in spite of all the buzz around it.

The larger point here is that Udta Punjab boasted of the best performances of the year, but it did not make for the best film. Because the merit of a film extends beyond the performances of its cast. A good film creates dialogue. While Udta Punjab did so prior to its release, Neerja did so right when it was needed the most.

Updated Date: Jul 16, 2017 15:49:06 IST