“Daivathinte Malakhamar ennokke vilippere ullu Sir. Vilikkunnavar aarum malakhamarude veettile avastha chodikkarilla”. There is this scene in Take Off where Parvathy explains to Fahadh Faazil the reason why she didn’t leave from Iraq despite the situation in the country . She breaks down when she tells him how the wages a nurse gets in her country is so meagre to make her ends meet. It is an outstanding act by Parvathy. It’s so good that she makes you forget it is the actress in front of you and takes you right into the plight of her character’s profession. Take Off is a neatly crafted thriller and Parvathy’s bravura performance is its USP.
Take Off is based on the operation that rescued 46 Kerala Nurses from Iraq in 2014. Parvathy portrays Sameera who had to fight against several odds when the ISIS militants had held her and other nurses captive in a hospital in Iraq. You do not see in Sameera even a shade of her previous character “Tessa” from Charlie. Her looks, accent, body language all has changed. One other scene that stayed with me as the movie ended is the one where Sameera asks Shaheed (Kunchakko Boban) to marry her and walks away. Her smile is so precise when she turns back that it makes you wonder whether it denoted the love for Shaheed or the relief that she can travel to Iraq? Mahesh Narayanan who makes his debut as director gets his job half-done when he signs Parvathy ,who is returning after a massive break of 15 months, as his protagonist.
Mahesh does a lot of other things right too. His editing ,which is the job he has been doing for years, is crisp in the first half where the narrative moves at a fast pace. There is also a certain sensitivity in his writing. In a thriller like this , it is easy to ignore a small kid’s perspective .Yet the director spends time in letting Sameera plan and convince her kid about the changes in her life. Kunchakko Boban’s Shaheed is a sweet decent guy who only wanted to help Sameera. But there is still no attempt to show him as perfect as it is he who indirectly causes her more troubles.
Most writers would have written Asif Ali’s character as a completely tough and villainy guy. But here Mahesh shows a guy with grey shades could also be very soft spoken. He also adds genuinity to his script by retaining most of the facts from the real incident. Take Off is technically sound. Sanu Varghese does a great job handling the camera especially a couple of bomb explosion scenes being well shot. Take Off keeps shifting between an emotional drama and thriller and the major reason you don’t notice a bump is Gopi Sunder’s BGM which just changes swiftly suiting all the moods. If Parvathy lends intensity to the movie, Fahadh Faasil gives it the urgency and Kunchakko Boban the calmness. Both Fahadh and Kunchakko leave marks though it is not really challenging roles for them. Fahadh’s smile as nurses walk past him in the climax is a delight.
Though Take Off do not have major flaws as such , it may not satisfy those who are looking for full-on entertainment. This is a serious theme being dealt here and Mahesh Narayanan doesn’t really rely on techniques like big turns or twists or sub-tracks that would make the movie more entertaining. The second half lacks even further fun than first half as it stays close to the real incidents. There is dejavu of Hindi movie Airlift in the second half but you cannot escape that as both movies ultimately dealt evacuation subject in middle-east though in two different time periods.
“We do not get this respect in our country”, tells Kunchakko Boban to his doctor in Iraq when he is asked why he and other nurses had come over to Iraq instead of working in India .Kunchakko tells this calmly with a smile but it sums up the message that Mahesh Narayanan has to convey in his impressive directorial debut.
P.S – Do not leave the theaters before the well blended end credits where the real life stills , videos and voice clips of the nurses are played. That moves you as much as the entire movie.