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Airlift is a 2016 Indian war thriller film directed by Raja Krishna Menon, starring Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur.[4] 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 collaboration 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


Plot
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 Kuwait-based businessman who is very 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 often derisive towards Indians.

After a night of partying, Ranjit is woken up to a phone call from his friend and receives word that negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait have collapsed, and Iraqi troops have begun their advance on Kuwait. Iraq owes a large debt to Kuwait after the Iran-Iraq war and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq had urged Kuwait during earlier talks to reduce their oil supply so prices can rise in the market and Iraq can stabilize their economy. When Kuwait refused, and began slant-drilling into Iraqi oil fields, Saddam ordered the attack. That morning, Ranjit discovers that Kuwait is now mostly overrun by Iraqi soldiers. Ranjit and Nair, his driver, go out and drive to the Indian embassy in an attempt to take their family and leave Kuwait. They are eventually stopped by Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint and Nair is shot dead amidst the confusion. A shocked Ranjit is then taken to the Emir's palace. There he meets Iraqi Republican Guard officer Major Khalaf bin Zayd (Inaamulhaq), who reveals that he was the one who pulled up to the checkpoint earlier and prevented Ranjit from any harm. Major Khalaf, 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.

From there, Ranjit goes to the Indian embassy where he learns that the Kuwaiti government has fled. The some 170,000 Indians in Kuwait are now stranded as refugees. Iraqi forces continue to push through Kuwait and eventually Ranjit's mansion is broken into, but his wife and child manage to escape to his office. Ranjit convinces his friends to work together, and they set up a makeshift camp for some 500 Indians with Major Khalaf's permission. 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 in Kuwait has been evacuated and phones the Indian External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi, where he reaches the Joint Secretary, Sanjiv Kohli (Kumud Mishra), and asks for arrangements to be made for the evacuation. Later on, the camp is looted by Iraqi soldiers, terrifying everyone in it. Ranjit pays a visit to Major Khalaf and talks to him about this, to which the Major simply extends his apologies, and also reveals that President Saddam has already permitted Indians to leave Kuwait, but the problem is that 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 there is of no help. The only remaining option, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, turns out to be helpful. He discloses that an Indian merchant ship is due to arrive in Iraq with various supplies, and permits the Indian refugees 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, effectively crushing their hopes of getting out.

Meanwhile, Kohli is somewhat of a sluggard, but when his 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, Jordan to issue permits. As the Indians leave Kuwait, Ranjit comes across yet another checkpoint where he encounters hostile Iraqi soldiers who, in absence of any passports or ID, threaten to kill Amrita. The hostilities escalate into a skirmish between Ranjit and the soldiers, following which the people in Ranjit's convoy come forward and outnumber the Iraqi soldiers. Ranjit lets them live and the convoy passes. 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.]



Cast
Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katyal, (based on Mathunny Mathews)[8]
Nimrat Kaur as Amrita Katyal
Inaamulhaq as Major Khalaf bin Zayd[9]
Avtar Gill as Amrit Pal
Feryna Wazheir as Tasneem
Lena Abhilash as George Kutty's wife, Deepti Jayarajan[10]
Purab Kohli as Ibrahim Durrani
Prakash Belawadi as George Kutty
Kumud Mishra as Sanjeev Kohli, Jt. Secretary MEA
Arun Bali as Bauji, Sanjiv Kohli's father
Ninad Kamat as Kurien
Nissar Khan as Ashok
Kaizaad Kotwal as Behram Poonawalla
Gunjan Malhotra as Meher Poonawalla
Surendra Pal as External Affairs Minister
Sanjay Bhatia as Official at Indian Embassy in Amman
Rajesh Jais as Official at Indian Embassy in Iraq
Jennifer Mistry Bansiwal as Rita
Pooja Nair as Preeth



Production
Development
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]

Filming
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]

Release
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][clarification needed] Airlift collected ₹835 million (US$12 million) in total during the first week, reports film analyst Taran Adarsh.[34]

Music
Airlift
Soundtrack album by Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari
Released 24 December 2015
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

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