The film opens with 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) arriving late for a house party. Later that evening, her mother (Shabana Azmi) expresses concern about Neerjas job as a flight attendant, suggesting that Neerja should return to her old modeling job. Neerja, who insists on keeping her job, is driven to the airport by her boyfriend Jaideep (Shekhar Ravjiani).Neerja reflects on her brief, unhappy arranged marriage to Naresh (Kavi Shastri), a professional in Doha, Qatar, who constantly abused Neerja over her dowry and inability to cook or clean. She eventually returned home for a modeling contract; however, Naresh sent back a humiliating letter attacking her parents about the dowry and lack of domestic skills, and demanding that Neerja either bring back money or not return at all.
Neerja left Naresh and landed a highly competitive job with Pan Am Airways.As Neerja boards Pan Am 73, it is revealed that the Abu Nidal Organization, a Libyan-sponsored terrorist group, has planned to hijack the plane in Karachi. The plane takes off from Mumbais Sahar International Airport and lands in Karachi, where the four Abu Nidal terrorists, disguised as security officers escorting a Libyan diplomat, hijack the plane. Neerja quickly alerts the cockpit, and the three American pilots escape through the overhead hatch, fleeing to the terminal under fire from the hijackers.When an Indian American passenger inadvertently reveals himself as an American, one of the terrorists murders him and throws his body off the aircraft in front of the Pakistani negotiators.
The terrorists try to locate a radio engineer among the passengers by ordering Neerja to make an announcement over the intercom. When Emran Ali (Shashi Bhushan), a Pakistani radio operator, begins to stand up, Neerja signals for him to sit down. The terrorists have the flight attendants collect all passports to identify the Americans passengers and hold them hostage; Neerja and her colleagues collect the passports, disposing of any American passports by throwing them down trash chutes or hiding them under seats. Dejected over not finding any American passports, the hijackers locate a British passenger and hold him hostage.The Pakistani negotiators inadvertently reveal the name of radio engineer Ali, whom the hijackers bring to the cockpit so they can use the radio for negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani authorities try to stall for time. When a younger terrorist assaults the passengers and molests the attendants, the terrorist leader chastises him; humiliated, enraged, and out of control, the younger terrorist storms into the cockpit and shoots Ali, screaming wild threats over the radio. While negotiations with the Pakistani air controllers drag on, the negotiators slowly lose control of the situation, with the hijackers becoming more agitated by the minute.Around 17 hours later, the plane loses auxiliary power, and the lights go out inside. Despite Neerja and the other attendants attempts to explain, the terrorists assume the Pakistanis cut the power deliberately, and anticipate an imminent Pakistani raid on the plane.
The panicking hijackers begin shooting down passengers indiscriminately; at great peril to her own life, Neerja opens the rear door and deploys the chute, directing passengers out of the plane. Choosing to let the passengers escape first, Neerja is fatally shot by the terrorists when she tries to shield young children from the gunfire. The film ends with a tribute to Neerja, who was eventually honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra, Indias highest military decoration awarded for peacetime valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice.
Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Ravjiani
Shanti Sivaram Maini
Fox Star Studios
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