Airlift (film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Raja Krishna Menon
Produced by
Written by
  • Raja Krishna Menon
  • Suresh Nair
  • Rahul Nangia
  • Ritesh Shah
Based on 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait
Music by
Cinematography Priya Seth
Edited by Hemanti Sarkar
Distributed by Prateek Entertainment
Release dates
    • 21 January 2016 (2016-01-21) (Dubai)
    • 22 January 2016 (2016-01-22) (India)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
Country India
Language Hindi
Budget 30 crore[2]
Box office est. 231.6 crore[3]

Airlift is a 2016 Indian war thriller film directed by Raja Krishna Menon, starring Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur.[4] The script, written by Raja Krishna Menon developed the idea after studying the whole incident of the war, and which he subsequently expanded. The film follows Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), a Kuwait-based businessman, as he carries out the evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during the Invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.[5][6]

With a budget of 300 million (US$4.5 million), the film premiered worldwide on 22 January 2016. The marketing of the film played an important role in the film's promotion and collaborated with the flight company Air India, who had a major contribution in the evacuation of record-breaking number of Indians during the war. The film is featured among the 2016 Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India.[7]


Kuwait, 1990: Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) is a fictional character based on the real-life events of Mathunny Mathews. Ranjit is a successful businessman who is well-connected in Kuwait and Iraq, and makes a happy home with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and little daughter Simu. He calls himself a Kuwaiti and is derisive towards Indians.

Ranjit receives word that Iraq has attacked Kuwait. Iraq owes a large debt to Kuwait and President Saddam of Iraq urged Kuwait to reduce oil supply so prices can rise and Iraq can profit. When Kuwait refused, Saddam ordered the attack. That morning, Ranjit discovers that Kuwait has been overrun by Iraqi soldiers who are killing Kuwaiti citizens. Ranjit and Nair, his Indian driver, drive to the Indian Embassy. They are stopped by teenage Iraqi soldiers and Nair is shot dead. A shocked Ranjit is taken to the Emir palace. Iraqi Army Major Khalaf (Inaamulhaq), who knows Ranjit from Ranjit's visits to Iraq, chides him but extends his personal friendship, ensuring Ranjit and his family's safety from the soldiers.

At the Embassy, Ranjit learns that the Kuwaiti government has fled. The some 170,000 Indians in Kuwait are now stranded as refugees. Ranjit's mansion is looted but his wife and child escape to his office. Ranjit convinces his friends to work together, and they set up a makeshift camp for some 500 Indians. Amrita urges Ranjit to use his leverage to extricate his own family but Ranjit, who ordinarily would have just looked out for himself, appears to have a change of heart. He decides to stay and help the other Indians get out of Kuwait.

Ranjit learns that the Indian Embassy has been evacuated and phones the Indian External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi, where he reaches Joint Secretary in MEA, Sanjiv Kohli (Kumud Mishra). The camp is looted by Iraqi soldiers, terrifying everyone in it. Major Khalaf reveals that Saddam has already permitted Indians to leave Kuwait, but they have no way to do so. Ranjit travels to Baghdad to try and set up a way out of Kuwait but the Indian Embassy is of no help. The only remaining option, Ranjit's friend, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, turns out to be helpful. He discloses that an Indian merchant ship is due to arrive in Iraq and he will permit the 500 Indians to leave on the ship. However, Ranjit later receives news that there is a UN embargo and ships are barred from entering or leaving Iraq.

Kohli is somewhat of a sluggard, but when his own father (Arun Bali) recounts their tale of woe during the partition of India, Kohli is inspired to actively help Ranjit. He approaches the national airline, Air India, to orchestrate an evacuation of the 170,000 Indians in Kuwait and gets the Indian Embassy at Amman, capital of Jordan to issue permits. As the Indians leave Kuwait, Ranjit encounters hostile Iraqi soldiers who threaten to kill Amrita. When the group of Indians back Ranjit up and outnumber the soldiers, they let them pass. They arrive in Jordan and Air India and Indian Airlines supplies the planes and pilots to fly the Indians back. The Indians salute Ranjit as they board the planes that will take them home.




According to the director of the film, Raja Krishna Menon, he wrote the script after studying the whole incident of war and the predicament of Indians based in Kuwait.[12] He then approached Akshay Kumar for the role of a character based on Mathunny Mathews,[8] the real life businessman who spearheaded the evacuation efforts named 'Ranjit Katyal', to which he agreed to act and produce under his banner of Hari Om Entertainment.[12][13] Kumar felt that the film possessed significant offbeat potential,[14] with a good amount of "patriotism" and a reason to be a proud Indian.[5][15] He stated that Balraj Sahni's role in the film Waqt (1965) is his inspiration for the role where an earthquake shatters the peaceful life of Sahni's character.[16]

Due to the film's theme based on rescue operation, the film was compared with Ben Affleck-starrer Argo (2012) sharing the similar storyline. However, Kumar stated that the film does not have any connection with it and is completely based on a true story.[17] He also said that comparing the film with Argo is an "insult" and it is not a matter of humour for Indians to achieve this end.[17] Kumar reported that his 80% profit share will be included in the film's budget and he would not charge fees for the same.[2][18]


Principal photography was started on February 2015.[19][20] The first schedule of the film was reportedly shot in Al-Hamra Palace Beach Resort in Ras Al Khaimah[21] and Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh in early March 2015.[22] The sets were re-created to depict Kuwait during 1990.[23] The second schedule of the film was shot in Bhuj, Gujarat[24] and Rajasthan, India.[25] Kumar and Purab Kohli reportedly learnt Arabic language for their roles.[26][27] Final portions of the film were completed with shooting of a music video for the song "Soch" in December 2015.[28]


Airlift was released on a total number of 1,800 to 2,000 screens in India, compared to Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 which got released with 2,000 to 2,500 screens.[29] Overseas, including Middle East, the film released with total number of 70 screens on 21 January.[30] The film had its highest opening in Emirates with the amount of AED 900,000, breaking the records of widest released film.[31] The film earned 123.5 million (US$1.8 million) during its first day run on 2,500 screens in India.[32][33] Airlift collected 835 million (US$12 million) in total during the first week, reports film analyst Taran Adarsh.[34]


Soundtrack album by Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari
Released 24 December 2015 (2015-12-24)
Recorded T-Series Studios
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 22:14
Language Hindi
Label T-Series

The soundtrack for Airlift was composed by Amaal Mallik and Ankit Tiwari and the lyrics were written by Kumaar.[35] The first song "Soch Na Sake" was released on T-Series official YouTube channel on 17 December 2015.[36][37] The full soundtrack album which includes 5 songs was released on 24 December 2015.[38][39] The music rights are acquired by T-Series.[40]

No. TitleLyricsMusicSinger(s) Length
1. "Soch Na Sake"  KumaarAmaal MallikArijit Singh, Tulsi Kumar, Amaal Mallik 04:40
2. "Dil Cheez Tujhe Dedi"  KumaarAnkit TiwariAnkit Tiwari, Arijit Singh 04:31
3. "Mera Nachan Nu"  KumaarAmaal MallikBrijesh Shandilya, Divya Kumar, Amaal Mallik 03:42
4. "Tu Bhoola Jise"  KumaarAmaal MallikK.K. 04:31
5. "Soch Na Sake (Solo Version)"  KumaarAmaal MallikArijit Singh 04:41
Total length:

Critical reception

Bollywood Hungama gave the film four and half stars, stating "On the whole, Airlift is a classic film based on a real-life incident that is told extremely well on screen. It is surely one of the best films to come out this year and will pick up with a strong word of mouth. Just do not miss this one!".[42] Ananya Bhattacharya of India Today also rated the film four and half stars out of five, terming the film as "gritty, edge-of-the-seat and heart-stopping" and stated "Airlift is a tale of unmatched heroism. In all, Airlift is the story of unparalleled courage and unsung heroes. From unknown names in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to people who had their Indianness rearing its head from within just when it was required, Airlift is un-miss-able. Go watch it."[43] Srijana Mitra Das from The Times Of India gave the film 4 stars out of 5 praising its direction and wrote "Airlift has one of Akshay Kumar's best performances – along with other sterling acts. Certain cameos are outstanding. Airlift's scale is impressive and editing (Hemanti Sarkar) deft." [44] Writing for NDTV, Saibal Chatterjee also gave it four stars and stated, "Airlift is a rare megastar vehicle that derives obvious benefits from the lead actor's magnetism without subjugating itself to the need to make the most of his presence in the cast. Airlift is a film that every Indian, and every Bollywood buff despairing for genuinely high-quality storytelling, must watch."[45] Shubha Shetty Saha writing for Mid-Day felt that the film is "Akshay Kumar's best till date', awarded the film four stars and commented, "Menon's deft execution of the plot in hand, crisp editing (Hemanti Sarkar), dialogues which are perfectly tailored for the script, and good cinematography (Priya Seth) make this film a must watch. Don't miss it."[46]

Anupama Chopra from Hindustan Times rated the film three and a half star out of five, and described it as "Akshay Kumar's finest hour" and wrote "Big props to Akshay for putting his heart and might behind such an unconventional project, and to director Raja Krishna Menon for showcasing a story that had been lost on the sidelines. But Airlift never takes full flight because of the screenplay. Airlift is tonally inconsistent but the film is fuelled by a palpable sincerity.[47] Ritika Handoo of Zee News also gave it three and half stars out of five and termed Akshay as the "hero" of this film. She stated, "Akshay as Ranjit Katyal is the anchor of this ship called 'Indians' who need to sail smooth ashore. The film shows how exactly the Indians in Kuwait were evacuated or rather 'airlifted' safely after Saddam Hussein led Iraq war. Akshay is the hero because he played a man, who in real life, stretch his boundaries for saving humanity. Akshay's dedication and sincerity in portraying such roles with brilliance makes 'Airlift' have a safe landing even at the box office windows. A must watch for every Indian. Remember this will make you believe in what Indians can do when 'united'."[48] Shubhra Gupta in her review for The Indian Express also gave the film three and half stars and noted " ‘Airlift’ plays it right, and gives us drama, even if things slow down and turn a trifle repetitious post interval. But overall, ‘Airlift’ is a good film, solidly plotted, well executed and well-acted. Just lose the songs, and the occasional underlined background music the next time."[49] Rajeev Masand from CNN-IBN gave the film three and half stars, saying "The occasional speed bumps aside, there are many moments that soar. Raja Menon turns an important story into a compelling film. Don’t miss it.[50] Arkadev Ghoshal of IBTimes India gave it three and half stars and stated, "Airlift" is probably a good release for the weekend preceding Republic Day, when patriotic sentiments are high. However, one only wishes that Menon had given a little more attention to some other aspects of the film. He does show promise, so here's expecting better cinema from him."[51] Sukanya Verma of Rediff also gave it three and half stars and termed the film as "taut, tense, terrific" and summarised, "Oh what a beauty Akshay's performance is. Old-school gallantry, contemporary tone, his measured delivery is the soul of and savior in Airlift. Larger-than-life might is commonplace, but larger-than-life intensity is rare. Here, it is unmistakable, unceasing."[52]

Surabhi Redkar from Koimoi gave three stars praising Akshay's performance and noted, "Airlift is definitely a one-time watch since it is a story of an unsung hero and also India's proud moment. Akshay Kumar certainly gives an impressive performance." [53] Sarita A Tanwar of DNA also gave the film three stars and stated, "A spirited effort and Akshay Kumar's performance are the highest points of 'Airlift'.[54] Subhash K. Jha of SKJBollywoodNews also gave the film four and half stars and stated, "Airlift is first and foremost a heart-stopping thriller. It's the story of a man whose heroism is awakened in the hour of crisis".[55]

The film was declared tax free by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar state governments on 28 January and 17 February 2016.[56][57][58][59]


Historical accuracy

The movie was criticized for over-simplifying the complex operation of the airlift.[60] The portrayal of diplomats and bureaucrats in the film was criticized by present and former officials in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. K. P. Fabian, who was the Joint Secretary of the Gulf division at the Ministry during the Gulf War in 1990, accused the film of deliberately spreading misinformation about the role of government officials at the time.[61]

Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted that the film was great entertainment but short on facts while the Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao tweeted that the film fell completely short in its research on the role of the Ministry in the '90-'91 Gulf War.[62]

Kuwait ban

While initially slated for release, Airlift was eventually banned from cinemas in Kuwait for undisclosed reasons.[63][64][65][66]

See also


  1. "AIRLIFT (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Akshay Kumar to charge 80 percent of profit as remuneration for Airlift". BH News Network. Bollywood Hungama. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  3. "Airlift Grosses over 230 Crores Worldwide: Box Office Report". 26 February 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  4. Sonup Sahadevan (25 November 2015). "When Akshay Kumar cried without using glycerine in 'Airlift'". The Indian Express. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Do watch 'Airlift', you'll feel proud to be an Indian: Akshay Kumar". CNN-IBN. Indo-Asian News Service. December 13, 2015. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  6. Priya Guptha (19 August 2014). "Airlift: Akshay Kumar's next a thriller of the biggest human evacuation". The Times Group. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  8. 1 2 "Meet Sunny Matthew: The real life hero who inspired Airlift's Ranjit Katyal – Firstpost". Firstpost. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  9. India TV Entertainment Desk (21 January 2016). "Know about the antagonist of 'Airlift' Major Khalaf Bin Zayd". India TV. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  10. "Lena heads to Rajasthan for Akshay Kumar film". Sanjit Sidhardhan. 26 October 2015.
  11. "Pooja Nair - IMDb". Internet Movie Database.
  12. 1 2 Amrita Tanna (19 January 2016). "Raja Krishna Menon on 'Airlift': "First time you'll see a vulnerable Akshay Kumar"". Media 24x7. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  13. Avinash Lohana (24 December 2015). "Akshay readily agreed for 'Airlift'". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  14. Mail Today (17 January 2016). "Akshay Kumar and co-star Nimrat Kaur in Airlift mode". India Today. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  15. "'Airlift' trailer: True events and patriotism makes it the most awaited film of this season". IBN desk. CNN-IBN. 2 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  16. Raghuvendra Singh (20 January 2016). "It's an honour to work in a film like Airlift". Filmfare. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  17. 1 2 "Insulting to compare 'Airlift' with 'Argo': Akshay Kumar". The Indian Express. Press Trust of India. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  18. "Akshay Kumar to not charge a penny for 'Airlift'". The Indian Express. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  19. "Check out: Akshay Kumar's Airlift commences shooting". BH News Network. Bollywood Hungama. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  20. Ishita Blaggan (24 February 2015). "First Look: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur in Airlift". NDTV Network. NDTV. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  21. E 24/7 (15 March 2015). "'Airlift': Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur cook-up storm in Ras Al Khaimah". Emirates 24/7. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  22. "Akshay Kumar shoots for 'Airlift' at Ras Al Khaimah in Kuwait". DC Webdesk. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  23. Manjusha Radhakrishnan (21 March 2015). "Akshay Kumar's 'Airlift' in UAE: tabloid! on set". GN Webdesk. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  24. Kasmin Fernandes (30 January 2015). "Akshay Kumar to start shooting Airlift next month". The Times Group. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  25. Asira Tarannum (18 October 2015). "Airlift preps for Diwali shoot". The Asian Age. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  26. "Purab Kohli learns Arabic during 'Airlift' shoot". The Indian Express. Indo-Asian News Service. December 10, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  27. Priya, Gupta (27 February 2015). "Akshay Kumar learns to speak Arabic for Airlift". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  28. Pramod Gaikwad (7 December 2015). "Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur wrap 'Airlift' with a romantic song 'Soch'". The Indian Express. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  29. Gaurav Dubey (22 January 2016). "Box office: 'Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3' seems to have an edge over 'Airlift'". Mid Day.
  30. "Akshay Kumar's 'Airlift' to release across 70 screens in Middle East". The Indian Express. Indo-Asian News Service. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  31. Ankita Mehta (22 January 2016). "'Airlift' box office collection: Akshay Kumar starrer breaks records in UAE-GCC; opens well in India". IBT Media.
  32. "Airlift box office collections: Akshay Kumar film earns Rs. 12.35 cr. on opening day". Express Webdesk. 23 January 2016.
  33. "Airlift box office collection: Akshay-Nimrat's film opens to a good start". IT Desk. 23 January 2016.
  34. taran_adarsh (29 January 2016). "#Airlift Fri 12.35 cr, Sat 14.60 cr, Sun 17.35 cr, Mon 10.40 cr, Tue 17.80 cr, Wed 6 cr, Thu 5 cr. Total: ₹ 83.50 cr. India biz. EXCELLENT!" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  35. Joginder, Tuteja (26 November 2015). "Bhushan Kumar brings on the music for Akshay Kumar's thrilling drama Airlift". Bollywood Hungama. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  36. "'SOCH NA SAKE' Video". T-Series. YouTube. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  37. Nilanjana, Basu (18 December 2015). "Akshay Kumar Travels to Trouble in New Airlift Song". NDTV News Networks. NDTV. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  38. "Airlift (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – EP by Ankit Tiwari & Amaal Mallik on iTunes". iTunes Store. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  39. "Airlift, Airlift songs, Hindi Album Airlift 2015". Saavn. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  40. "Airlift – T-Series". T-Series. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  41. "Airlift (2016) Tracklist". Bollywood Hungama. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  42. "Airlift Review". Bollywood Hungama. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  43. Bhattacharya, Ananya (22 January 2016). "Airlift movie review: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur's spectacular tale of heroism". India Today. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  44. Das, Srijana Mitra (22 January 2016). "Airlift Movie Review". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  45. Chatterjee, Saibal (22 January 2016). "Airlift Movie Review". NDTV. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  46. Saha, Shubha Shetty (22 January 2016). "'Airlift' – Movie Review". Mid-Day. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  47. Chopra, Anupama (23 January 2016). "Airlift review by Anupama Chopra: It's Akshay Kumar's finest hour". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  48. Handoo, Ritika (22 January 2016). "Airlift movie review: Akshay Kumar anchors gripping real evacuation on 'reel'!". Zee News. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  49. Gupta, Shubhra (23 January 2016). "Airlift review: Akshay's film is well executed and well-acted". The Indian Express. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  50. Masand, Rajeev (22 January 2016). "'Airlift' review: The film turns the real-life story into a one-man mission". CNN-IBN. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  51. Ghoshal, Arkadev (22 January 2016). "Airlift movie review: A good story that gets good lift from acting, but not enough". IBTimes India. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  52. Verma, Sukanya (22 January 2016). "Review: Airlift is taut, tense, terrific!". Rediff. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  53. Redkar, Surabhi (22 January 2016). "Airlift Review". Koimoi. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  54. Tanwar, Sarita A (22 January 2016). "'Airlift' review: The very real story of an ordinary man being pushed to heroism". DNA India. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  55. "Airlift Movie Review: A heart-stopping thriller!". SKJ Bollywood News.
  56. "'Airlift' declared tax free in UP, 'Ranjit Katiyal' thanks Akhilesh Yadav on Twitter". Network 18. 28 January 2016.
  57. "Airlift starring Akshay Kumar declared tax free in Uttar Pradesh". The Indian Express. 28 January 2016.
  58. Bihar govt exempts entertainment tax on Bollywood film ' Airlift' for a year. - Times of India
  59. "Bihar cabinet declares 'Airlift' tax free". CNN-IBN. 17 February 2016.
  60. McCahill, Mike (25 January 2016). "Airlift review – India's historic Kuwait evacuation retold as a one-man mission". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  61. "'Airlift' spreads misinformation".
  62. "Why Diplomats, Officials Are Upset With Akshay Kumar's 'Airlift'".
  63. "Kuwait National Cinema Company".
  64. Zaheen Mistry. "Update: Airlift banned in Kuwait". TheTrendIn.
  65. "'Airlift' movie banned in Kuwait". Exotic Kuwait.
  66. Mano Technologies. "Kuwait Local – Airlift Banned In Kuwait". Archived from the original on 28 January 2016.

External links

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