I don't really like conflict films or war movies - give me a choice and I will always opt for a soppy, syrupy love story any day. I hate watching the aftermath of armed conflicts in terms of loss of limbs and lives. I especially hate watching medical dramas in conflict zones and the endless parade of bloody and maimed bodies.
Then why did I go to watch Take Off? For one, it based on the real story of the rescue of a group of Malayali nurses stranded in Iraq during the first onslaught of ISIS attacks there. I still remember praying for the safe deliverance of those women. It is also a tribute to the director who gave us that perfect movie called Traffic - Rajesh Pillai. Which is why perhaps I choked up when the titles of his three movies blossomed on the screen before the movie. That I was not the only one so affected was proved by the heartfelt applause in the house-full movie hall.
The movie drew me in with the title scenes themselves - the montage of nurses across history prompted our inquisitive Ani to ask me several questions. And we were thrown directly into the life of Sameera - played by, no, lived by Parvathy Thiruvothu - the woman for whom her career and life are a series of battles in which she must stay strong or risk being swamped. Her struggle to travel to Iraq for the sole sake of a livelihood to support her family is interleaved with glimpses of the tortuous past she has had to lead so far. We become convinced that this is a woman who will not surrender meekly before anything that life throws at her.
The rest of the story is very well known. The makers of this movie have worked their magic in interweaving enough suspense and unpredictable incidents that leave the audience gasping and worrying and flinching at the right moments. The supporting cast of Fahadh Fasil, Kunchacko Boban and Asif Ali have performed extremely well. I call them the supporting cast because the movie rides on the very capable shoulders of Parvathy - just one shot of Sameera walking away with her pregnant waddle from the Indian Embassy is enough to convey the courage and the tragedy embodied in that one character. I was too emotionally overcome at that moment to give her a standing ovation on the spot.
But we did give a standing ovation at the end of the movie and once again when the montage of videos and pictures of the forty-six nurses who made it back safely to their homes rolled across the screen. I doubt if there was a dry eye in the hall at that moment. I don't know much about the technical aspects of film making to evaluate them one by one. What I do know that this movie is a seamless, world-standard thriller which moved to me to tears at the end of it.
The movie addresses several issues from international politics and diplomatic relations to the underpaid drudgery of nurses in India, touching on several other on the way including a woman's reproductive rights. I am still dealing with the emotional aftermath of the movie to be able to analyze all those issues. But one thing I can say for sure: