“Kallu Kondoru Pennu" is the first of the films that come to my memory with a nurse who works abroad as a theme. Sita, played by Telugu actress Vijayasanthi, had a story that is quite typical about any of the Malayalee woman working abroad then. She has left her home to a Gulf country in search of a job; the one would pay her good and a new life to her siblings and parents back at home.
The film directed by Shyamaprasad, however, had not stuck an easy chord with the audience due to its too much emotionality and superfluous treatment of the theme. Result was that the movie has done badly both at the box office and among the critics. And since then Malayalam cinema has not taken any big scale efforts like that of ‘Take Off’ to tell the tale of hardships the Indian nurses have to undergo while working in the internally fragile regions of the Middle-East hospitals.
Migration of nurses has started way before 1980's from the state. The good prospect of a better living and earning a decent salary to feed their families were the reasons that led many of them to take a less-beaten, thorny path of taking a job in the countries where there is no regard for public affairs.
‘Take-Off’ is a big movie in both its production scale and in its subject treatment. The movie has scaled a new height quite enviously by placing a story so ambitiously global and successfully made it on a scale of international standards. Moreover, the director has done a research that is so vast and meticulous in capturing the real-life situation in war zones of Iraq. He even had delved deep into the backdoor happenings of international diplomacy, a theme rarely dealt in Malayalam movies.
Director Mahesh Narayanan, however, doesn't show any urgency to spill all those details of the lives of struggling nurses of the state at a go. In fact, he slowly builds the movie around the central character Sameera, her family, and colleagues.
Sameera hails from an average Kerala Muslim family who is struggling to come to terms with her bitter past. She is a divorcee. The factors that led to her break up with her husband in a Middle East country is not connected to their discordant relationship but to the disapprovements of her husband's family's orthodox mindset of not letting the girl go for job. The rift gets further widened as Sameera had left with no choice to snap the marital relationship and leave her four-year-old son with her husband for a job in a private hospital in Kerala.
She has to face a hard reality back in Kerala and working for a menial income doesn't settle her needs. She has taken loans to complete her nursing course and her family consisting of two sisters and parents solely rely upon her income to meet their ends.
She, however, gets an opportunity to work in a hospital run by the Iraqi government in Tikrit, where the law and order situation has turned bad to worse since the upsurge of Islamic State (IS) militants. Her life runs into another twist with Shaheed, a male nurse working with her, played by Kunchacko Boban, comes into her life.
She along with Shaheed and few other colleagues soon board an Iraqi flight to Baghdad. They are awaited with a more bloody reality in contrary to what they expected of a better life there. The movie, in its second part, pulls into more emotional tightness as Shaheed was captured by IS militants and left Sameera looking for an option to find him. Indian ambassador Manoj (Fahadh Faasil) helps her and the other stranded nurses to get out of the situation makes the rest of the film.
‘Take-Off’ has in its resemblances to the Hindi movie ‘Airlift’. The successful Hindi movie is too based on a real-life incident. It tells the story of 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 in 1990's. The similarity, however, is not only in its theme but in the way the two directors had treated the rescue mission of freeing the stranded Indians in both countries in two different circumstances.
However, the thrill ‘Take-Off’ offers towards the end of it will not be missed even if you have enjoyed the Akshay Kumar movie.
‘Take-Off’ is one of a kind movie that is emotionally rich and gripping. Rare that these two are blended with such superiority and elegance. The complete grace goes to the director, Mahesh Narayanan.
This is the first film of Mahesh Narayanan as a director though he has edited many Malayalam movies in the past and even co-scripted the movie 'Mili' directed by Rajesh Pillai. Moreover, the script the director co-writes with PV Shajikumar deserves much praise too.
Sanu Varghese's camera goes seamlessly with the stitches and trims the director along with Abhilash Chandran has done. The production design of the movie needs another mention. They have done such a vast work and spent a great amount in emulating the dusty landscapes of Iraq.
Parvathy is excellently at her best in portraying the emotional upheavals of Sameera. Too much emotion crisscross her face and no chance of she giving way to those feelings overshadowing her character. Kunchacko Boban has given a mature performance in giving a more humane face to his character. Fahadh Fazil as the Indian ambassador is the one gets rare applause from the audience for his shrewdly, witty ways of expression in winning over his seniors in making quick decision.
Asif Ali,Prem Prakash and Prakash Belawadi and score other unknown actors too worth mention though they appear for only few minutes on screen.
‘Take-Off’ is a tribute to all those nurses who have lived a struggling life miles away from the security and peace of their home to feed their loved ones. ‘Take-Off’ is a definite watch.