Take a big bow, Malayalam film industry. With talents abound, you have pulled off a gargantuan project with so much ease.
In 2014, Kerala had read and watched with utmost anxiety the reports about the ordeals of Malayali nurses stranded in war-torn Iraq. If it's sheer brilliance to retell their trials and tribulations in a lesser known part of the world, the decision to make it in a comparatively small industry like Mollywood is avant-garde.
And there you have Take Off -- the directorial debut of seasoned film editor Mahesh Narayanan. In thought, planning and execution, the film Take Off is strong enough to capture the imagination of all kinds of audience and rule the box office.
The plot has already been news and thus, a challenge for the writer-director combo. Take Off movie overcomes such challenges and hurdles, riding on a neatly written script, well-executed shots and responsible performance from the actors.
Sameera (Parvathy Thiruvoth) is a 31-year-old nurse who is being forced by her circumstances to take up a job in Iraq. She is a divorcee and has an eight-year-old son, but that's not a problem at all for Shahid (Kunchacko Boban), her colleague, who is ready to accompany her to the troubled land. Sameera accepts to marry him, in yet another attempt to keep her and her closed ones' life afloat. The narrative in Take Off takes the much expected turns -- in a very positive sense -- once the couple, along with their colleagues land in Iraq.
The film slips into a thriller by the second half after the pre-interval hours, which has a lot of family drama. The second half, filled with sequences of the Islamic State capturing Mosul and Tikrit, holding the nurses captive and their attempts to survive and escape the militants offers moments of excitement, anxiety and emotional outbursts.
While Parvathy, Kunchacko and Asif Ali, who plays Sameera's estranged husband, keep the story going in the first half, the mantle is almost handed over to Fahadh Faasil in the second half. Fahadh, as Manoj, an Indian envoy to Iraq, does yet another stunning performance in an altogether different avatar from his previous onscreen outing as the naive, rustic, photographer in Maheshinte Prathikaaram.
The film has its strong points in the neatly crafted sequences of the Indian Embassy's attempts to rescue the nurses. Though sprinkled with a pinch of patriotic fervor, the film portrays the lesser known sides of international diplomacy, which often has to go for negotiations than holding firm on the orthodox official grounds.
We are only told by the officials that the government rescued the stranded nurses in a coordinated effort, and we have no clue about what happened behind the curtains. Take Off unravels such mysteries in a convincing manner, though we can't ascertain the veracity of the events.
The director has absolutely proven his mettle in portrayal of the crisis in the Arab region and the extremists' encounters with the nurses. The moderation with which the sequences are handled is highly commendable.
In the process of setting up the crisis and finding solutions, the script writers -- Mahesh Narayanan and P.V. Shajikumar -- weave in adequate moments of emotional drama, most of which earns applause.
Parvathy plays Sameera with the sense of perfection she is known for. The agonies of a woman caught up in a cobweb of personal, professional and even international crises come alive onscreen through her. Sameera goes emotional several times, but Parvathy never overplays it. So is the case with Kunchacko Boban.
While Sanu John Vargehese's camera catches the scenic Kerala and dusty, blood-stained middle east brilliantly, the director, along with Abhilash Balachandran, trims and stitches them carefully.
The film loses its pace somewhere through the initial minutes of the second half, but regains it in no time.
Take Off is an absolute must-watch if you want to witness Mollywood’s earnest attempt to fly new heights.