New Delhi: Ever since Ram Madhvani's ‘Neerja' starring Sonam Kapoor in the lead was announced, everyone was curious to know about the real Neerja Bhanot.
‘Neerja' has been the story of courage and fearless attitude of one brave-heart soul Neerja Bhanot who, at the age of 23, saved the lived of over 300 passengers on Pan Am Flight 73 that was hijacked in Karachi in September 1986.
While everyone is appreciating Sonam Kapoor's performance in the movie and are saluting the sacrifice of Neerja Bhanot, a survivor of the fateful incident has come forward recalling the dreadful incident.
“I saw her getting shot. She was shot in the head, point blank. Sitting in the sixth row from the front, I saw her during her last moments,” Dr Kishore Murthy, who was one of the survivors Pan Am hijack, told a leading daily.
“Neerja was absolutely calm and efficient through the horrific episode. She was the first one to alert the captain, the co-pilot and first officers about a possible hijack and it was on her instruction they made their way out from the cockpit, ensuring that the plane could not take off. She was a true global citizen and did not discriminate between Indians and Americans. I remember she and another flight attendant helped us out of the exit door when one of the terrorists was targeting us. There was constant firing of rounds. The auxiliary power unit had failed and the terrorists feared a commando attack. Hence, they started firing indiscriminately. She was very caring towards all the passengers, especially the elderly and children. I didn't see her lose her cool for even a moment. She was very efficient during the crisis,” he recalled further.
Dr Murthy's wife Dr. Veena Bharti, who has worked closely with Neerja's family to document her life, has revealed some important details about Neerja's death.
She has dismissed the reports saying that Neerja died while protecting three children. “She was guiding the passengers to the emergency exit. That is when the terrorists were firing constantly fearing a commando attack. They saw Neerja relentlessly trying to help the passengers out and that is when they caught her by her ponytail and shot her point blank,” Dr. Veena was reportedly quoted saying.
Neerja's sacrifice didn't go unnoticed and the brave-heart soul became the youngest recipient of India's highest peacetime military award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra.