Sonam Kapoor is all set to play the courageous and free-spirited flight crew, Neerja Bhanot, who sacrificed her life in the pre-empt of one of the worst aircraft hijacks in the aviation history, saving 360 lives. While we are super-thrilled to watch this biopic, we certainly hope that Sonam lives up to the expectations.
Ram Madhvani directed biopic, ‘Neerja’ is expected to hit the theatres on 19th February and here are 11 facts that you must know about the Heroine of The Hijack.
1. St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai
This brave and courageous girl was born to Harish (journalist) and Rama Bhanot. She attended school at Bombay Scottish School. After schooling, she graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
Beautiful Neerja got married at an early age of 21 and moved to the West Asia with her husband.
However, after her husband started demanding dowry, she returned back to India and it was then that she joined Pan Am.
3. Ashoka Chakra
Posthumously, Neerja became the youngest and the first woman recipient of the Ashoka Chakra Award (the highest civilian gallantry award in India for bravery during peace time). Also, to honour her bravery, the Indian Postal Service issued a postal stamp in the year 2004.
Before Neerja’s stint with Pan Am as a flight crew, she also featured in a number of advertisements such as Godrej Besto detergent, Vicco Turmeric cream, Vaporex, Binaca toothpaste and Benzer sarees to name a few.
5. 26th September 1986
On the fateful night of 26th September 1986, 23 year old Neerja boarded the Pan Am 73 flight and was the senior-most crew present.
6. Neerja the senior-most crew on-board
Upon sensing the situation, she alerted the three American cockpit members (pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer). But the three fled from the aircraft, making Neerja the senior-most crew on-board. The flight had just arrived from Mumbai and was preparing to depart from Pakistan (Jinnah International Airport) to the United States.
7. Hijacking by Abu Nidal Organization
This ill-fated flight was hijacked by the Abu Nidal Organization and was backed by Libya. The terrorists instructed Neerja to collect the passports of all the 360 passengers as they wanted to identify and target Americans. But, Bhanot, along with other crew members succeeded in hiding the passports of all the 40 American passengers, thus saving their lives.
8. Open fire by Terrorists
After about 17 hours into hijacking, the terrorists opened fire and set off explosives. It was then that she opened the emergency exit and helped several passengers escape.
9. Saved Three Children
This courageous girl got shot while she was trying to save 3 children from the hijackers. While shielding the kids she was hit by multiple bullets and succumbed to her injuries. One of the kids, who was merely 7-year old at the time of incidence, is now himself a pilot and considers Neerja Bhanot to be his idol.
Neerja became a global icon of bravery and self-sacrifice and is still known for her commitment to humanity.