Monday, May 03, 2021

The Ram Madhvani directorial, Neerja, featuring Sonam Kapoor

The Ram Madhvani directorial, Neerja, featuring Sonam Kapoor, went on floors last week in a Mumbai studio. The actress bears a striking resemblance to Neerja Banot, the Pan Am flight attendant who was killed on September 5, 1986 while trying to save passengers from terrorists who had hijacked Pan Am Flight 73.

The 22 year old was the senior flight purser who took charge after the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer fled. The plane which had left Mumbai for New York City was taken over by four heavily armed terrorists after it landed in Karachi. Neerja and the other attendants hid the passports of the 41 Americans on board, saving them from certain death.

After 17 hours, when the hijackers opened fire and set off explosives, she opened the emergency door and helped a number of passengers escape.She was shot while shielding three children from a hail of bullets.

She was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India's most prestigious gallantry award for bravery during peace time. The civil aviation ministry of India conferred another honour on her on February 18, 2010, on the occasion of the launch of the celebrations of the centenary of Indian aviation. The US Department of Justice also honoured her and the other attendants with the Special Courage Award.

In 2004, a stamp was released commemorating her and a square in Ghatkopar is named after her.

The ill-fated Pan American flight 73 has been recreated in Film City, where shooting is expected to go on for the next few months. The film is expected to release in early 2016.

03/05/21 Ankur Pathak/Mumbai Mirror

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