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Neerja, the biopic, an inspiring story for youth: Neerja’s Brother

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New Delhi: Recently released biopic, Neerja, starring Sonam Kapoor depicts the story of a fearless young woman with a promising modelling and flying career who lost her life while saving the passengers from the armed terrorists, is turning out to be an inspiration to the youth who were unaware of the happenings, said her brother.

“I have been flooded with phone calls, messages and Facebook posts from across the country and all over the world ever since ‘Neerja’ released. It is quite overwhelming. The film has been really well made and Neerja’s portrayal does full justice to her act of courage,” said Aneesh Bhanot, brother of the Pan-Am senior flight purser.

Neerja’s brothers, Akhil and Aneesh, have received praise from across the globe applauding her courageous act during the hijack.

“People who have seen the film in the United States, Australia and other countries are either calling up or sending messages about her act of courage and how so many of them have been moved after watching the movie. Many survivors of the hijacking have also been in touch,” Aneesh said.

In the United States, people who have gone to see the film have installed electric candles inside movie theatres, Aneesh pointed out.

House No. 3727 in Chandigarh’s Sector 46, the residence of Neerja’s brothers, is aptly named ‘Neerja Niwas’. They have proudly put a plaque outside the gate mentioning the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award for bravery, given to Neerja Bhanot in 1987.

Braveheart Neerja Bhanot who gave up her life two days before she would have turned 23, was the first women to receive Ashok Chakra.

She saved a large group of American children during the terrorist hijack of a Pan-Am flight at Karachi international airport in Pakistan on September 5, 1986.

“By bringing the story back to the youth, the film is doing great service to the community. Many youths didn’t even know her (Neerja) story. The film tells them that there is nothing to fear, even as a woman, from terrorists or anyone,” Aneesh said.

Aneesh, the younger brother, wished to watch the movie all by himself and quietly booked the tickets for the first show.

“I wanted to go and see this alone. I thought that (director Ram Madhvani) and his team have really done a very good job,” said Aneesh, who was in tears during the film.

His family members also went to see the show very first day. The film, released on Feb 19, left the Bhanot family with the memories of the Events of September 5-7, 1986.

Neerja, 23-year-old young women, was the senior flight purser of Pan-Am 73 (Bombay-Karachi-Frankfurt-New York) who got killed in the shootout following the hijack. Palestinian terrorists from the Abu Nidal group had entered the aircraft posing as Pakistani police personnel, carrying arms and hand grenades. 20 people dead and 150 injured after a bloodbath at the airport. There were around 200 Indian passengers on the flight, out of which 13 died while over 100 were injured.(IANS) (Image Courtesy: desimartini.com)

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10 Things You Should know About Neerja Bhanot

She laid her life for the sake of other, when honoured called

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According to Neerja Bhanot's mother, Neerja was more beautiful than Sonam Kapoor. Wikimedia commons
According to Neerja Bhanot's mother, Neerja was even more beautiful than Sonam Kapoor. Wikimedia commons

A women who sacrificed her life, at the age of 24, so that she could protect her passengers. Her plane Pam Am Flight 73 was hijacked on the way to USA, she saved each and every life on that flight, except hers.

Sonam Kapoor starrer ‘Neerja’ is based on the same set of events. Kapoor won her first National award for the film.

Read more: 5 Unknown and Amusing Facts About Wine

Here 10 must know facts about Neerja Bhanot:

1. She was born on 7th September, 1962 in Chandigarh to Harish and Rama Bhanot.

Her father was a journalist in his days. Her parents had prayed for long to get a daughter. When she was born, her father had thanked the nurse twice. She repeated, ‘It is a girl.’

2. She studied in Bombay Scottish School, and graduated from St Xavier’s college, Mumbai.

A ‘no problem’ child, who entertained ‘no nonsense’. Neerja’s family name was ‘Lado’.

3. She was a loyal friend.

Even if she had a disagreement with any of her friends, she would always be the first to sort it out. She always used to speak her mind, telling the truth.

4. Neerja Bhanot was a known face in ad campaigns.

She was around 18 years old when a photographer approached her for a modelling assignment. When the ad was printed, what followed was a mirage of jobs. Neerja had features in ads for Binaca, Vaporex and Krack Jack biscuits.

Her flight was hijacked on its way to United States of America. Pexels
Her flight was hijacked on its way to United States of America. Pexels

5. She was married to a man based in Sharjah in March 1985.

This was when her modelling career was taking off. But Neerja agreed to the marriage without any argument. However within two months of the marriage, she was subjected to mental and physical abuse.

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6. Neerja’s marriage came to an end when she came back to Mumbai for a modelling assignment.

Her husband sent her an ugly letter listing terms of her return. It was ‘accept the humiliating terms without a whimper at your own cost’ offer. The other option was separation. Bhanot chose the later.

7. She was picked in the top 80, out of 10,000 applicants for a job of flight attendant with Pam Am.

After her abusive marriage ended, Neerja wanted to prove herself. She used to say if something happened to her one day, even her ex-husband’s shadow should not fall on her dead body. Her wish was honoured.

8. She left home for the last time on 5th September 1986.

25 hours before turning 24, she left to attend her cabin-crew duty. Neerja Bhanot was known to be absolutely calm and efficient through the hijack episode. She alerted the captain, and it was her smartness that ensured the plane couldn’t take off.

She could have escaped first when she opened the emergency exit. Pexels
She could have escaped first when she opened the emergency exit. Pexels

9. She saved others, over herself.

Neerja could have saved herself when she opened the emergency exit, but that didn’t go well with her. She decided to be the last person to quit, be it alive or dead.

10. It was on 6th of September that her funeral took place, just a day before her birthday.

The women who died so other could live. She cremated with the chanting of ‘Goodbye darling, please keep coming’, her favourite mantra.