Ajay Devgn may have taken off from a true incident closer home at Kochi airport but the cockpit manual is straight from Clint Eastwood’s 2016 film Sully: Miracle On the Hudson. Without the same effect.
Whether it’s Tom Hanks as Captain Sullenberg who made an emergency landing on river Hudson saving all the 155 lives on board or Ajay Devgn as Captain Vikrant Khanna, an enquiry that hinges on the lives that could’ve been endangered and not on the ground reality that the pilot averted an aviation tragedy, runs into the expected headwind at the end.
Ajay Devgn as captain of the film and in the cockpit, spends half the running time on establishing that he has a photographic memory (there will be a payoff at the end), that he prefers outcomes to rules (the ‘Jalaya toh nahin’ line), and on the struggle in the cockpit as he and first officer Tanya Albuqurque (Rakul Preet) pilot their troubled aircraft through turbulence and storm to land on Runway 34. His decision and not the Air Traffic Control’s choice.
The up-in-the-air adventure is well done with special effects and cinematography (Aseem Bajaj) providing a cockpit view of aviation drama.
Two choices work well. One, the main performers. Amitabh Bachchan as Narayan Vedant is a natural as the stern, rule-playing investigating officer with emphatically delivered lines. Ajay Devgn, bringing with him a touch of arrogance and ability, is comfortable grappling with the aircraft and with the investigation into his decisions. Rakul Preet too slips into the seat next to him with relative ease.
The straightforward narration is welcome with no sidetrack conversations about romance, family life or flashes from the past.
Also, an assorted sprinkling of passengers which is de rigueur for any story aboard an aircraft and mess-ups in the ATC, so crucial to the flight path, are all introduced before the stormy landing.
It’s after the captain lands safely against all odds that Sandeep Kewlani’s story with screenplay by Sandeep and Aamil Keeyan Khan, crash lands.
The investigation into Vikrant’s decisions and actions isn’t taut and curiously, what transpired at the ATC end or the presence of the daughter of a chronically ailing asthmatic passenger, stay under-utilised as dramatic clinchers. In fact, it is the absence of an interesting investigation that renders it bland and loosens the grip.
The Boman Irani branch (as owner of the airline that’s on the verge of a sale) also adds nothing to the main trunk.
In other words, the actor in Ajay excels, the director doesn’t. Nonagenarian Clint Eastwood has straddled acting and direction with ease. Ajay Devgn is still to ace that mix.
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Watch Runway 34 Trailer: