HT City’s Stars In The City got an airlift, quite literally, when the starcast of Airlift, actors Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur, and director Raja Krishna Menon were surprised to see three guests in the front row, two of whom actively carried out the evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The first-hand accounts shared by Captain Ashok Verma (who operated the First Air India Flight, for the evacuation of Indians) and Rita Pradeep Nair (who was the cabin crew head then) were heartwrenching. Also present was Captain Rishabh Kapur, who was part of Air India’s Operation Raahat (2015) to evacuate 3000 people from the war zone in Yemen. Capt Kapur said, “We are so proud that Akshay paaji is doing this movie.”
Actors Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur, who will soon be seen in the upcoming film Airlift, visited HT House recently along with director Raja Menon to meet the winners of the HT Stars in the City contest. In a freewheeling chat with Sonal Kalra, national entertainment and lifestyle editor, they spoke about why they chose to do this film. Excerpts:
Akshay, who narrated this idea to you and how many seconds did it take you to say yes? Airlift is based on the biggest evacuation ever done by any country. Someone recently asked me if Airlift is similar to Argo (Oscar-winning film on how the CIA used a fake sci-fi flick to rescue Americans from Tehran), and I said ‘Argo only saved six people, this saved 1, 70,000. The only difference is that Argo won an Oscar and we have to see what we get. Our director made us meet the civilians who were stuck there.
Nimrat, what was it about the movie that made you say ‘yes’?
I don’t think as an actor who is just starting, you can decide what to do next. You can only choose from the things that come to you. I feel fortunate to be a part of this story. It is really a pleasure for any actor to attach themselves to something that happens in real life. I didn’t know about this event when it occurred, I only came to know about it after I read the script. And the chance to work with Akshay has been massive for me.
Watch: Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur in Airlift trailer
Raja, how did this idea come to you?
I am from Kerala, and as you know, half of Kerala is in the Gulf countries, so when this thing happened in 1990, it was as though Saddam Hussein had attacked Kerala. And I was aware of it then. Around 10-15 years later, I was reading about it, and I realised that this operation was huge — airlifting almost 1,70,000 Indians by 488 flights in association with Indian Airlines. Looking at the logistics and how many people were involved, that’s when I decided that this is a story that should make us proud.
Akshay, if you were not an actor, would you have remained a chef?
If I hadn’t been a successful actor, then I would have still remained a struggling actor.
(Compiled by Akshay Kaushal.)
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