The Newsroom

August 19, 2014

Airlift: Akshay Kumar's next a thriller of the biggest human evacuation (Source: The Times Of India)

Facts of History: August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait
Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1990 was in debt to the tune of US $80 billion because of the long-drawn Iran conflict that it had undertaken. Iraq wanted the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and specifically Kuwait, to reduce oil production to create a scarcity of oil leading to increasing oil prices, thereby helping Iraq raise more money. But, both the OPEC and Kuwait refused, leaving Iraq furious. On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The Iraqi army took over the city within a few hours. The Kuwaiti royal family managed to escape to Saudi Arabia, leaving the state rudderless. The city was looted and the general population subjugated and made to suffer great tragedies at the hands of the Iraqi army. Kuwait was home to almost 1,70,000 Indians, all of who had suddenly lost all their money, were homeless and scared for their lives. Some of the Indian businessmen got together to form a group that would oversee the evacuation of the huge Indian contingent from war-torn Kuwait. The evacuation was no easy task, as most Indians were not ready to leave everything they had worked for so hard, for so many years. Neither could they, as they did not have valid travel papers as the employers used to hold on to their employee passports once they landed in Kuwait, and those Kuwaiti employers were either dead or had fled by then.

The India Political scenario in 1990: Politically, India was at its most unstable with VP Singh as its Prime Minister, with the opposition threatening to bring the government down. Not only was India financially in trouble, but also 40% of its crude oil came from that region that was now stuck because of the war.

The Film: It is in this scenario that Ranjit Katyal (played by Akshay Kumar), a wealthy and powerful Indian businessman, who has always seen himself as a Kuwaiti, rather than an Indian, realises that he no longer wields any influence on the Iraqis, and that he and his family are in as much danger as anyone else. Ranjit unknowingly becomes the man who all 1,70,000 Indians look up to for getting them out safely from Kuwait. Airlift is the story of Indians stranded in Kuwait during this traumatic time. A story of how they, with the help of Ranjit Katyal, managed to survive the Iraqi invasion, and against all odds travelled a thousand kilometres across the border into Amman, Jordan. From Amman, 1,70,000 Indians were brought home by the largest and the most successful evacuation ever attempted by any country, in the history of the world. Over 59 days, the Indian government systematically flew over 488 Air India commercial flights into a war zone to evacuate all 1,70,000 Indians and safely bring them back home. Airlift is an uplifting and entertaining edge-of-the-seat thriller and is the story of the biggest ever human evacuation in the history of mankind.

Airlift, directed by Raja Krishna Menon, starts filming April 2015 and is presented by T-Series and Cape of Good Films; produced by Crouching Tiger and Emmay Entertainment. Bhushan Kumar, talking about the film, said, "It's my conviction that the story will be equally appreciated once on celluloid as much as I loved it during narration. The character that Akshay plays is filled with heroism and I am sure he will add to the perfection with this central character role that he essays."

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