Take Off (2017) Malayalam Movie Review by Veeyen


The biggest realization that ‘Take Off’ leaves in its wake is the thought that even as I key in this word in the comfy confines of my study room, thousands of horrified humans elsewhere are being subjected to unimaginable terror and torment for no fault of theirs. Which is what makes Mahesh Narayanan’s film an upsetting and thorny experience, but one without which your film year is bound to remain incomplete.


As the border gates between Iraq and Kurdistan are thrown open, the worn-out Indian nurses who had been through hell fire and back hurriedly stagger across the border towards the Indian tricolour fluttering at the other side, and then break into a run, respite and joy writ large on their faces. This stellar climatic scene of Mahesh Narayanan’s ‘Take Off’ is perhaps the best that I have seen in recent years, and one that could only be watched with goose bumps all over.

‘Take Off’ depicts the harrowing tale of 24 Indian nurses who are trapped in the Tikrit Teaching Hospital that comes under the ISIS capture in 2014. Based on real incidents, it offers a fictional exploration of the tormenting journey that Sameera (Parvathy Thiruvoth) and her son Ibrahim go through, along with her husband Shahid (Kuchacko Boban), when the couple gets posted as nurses in trouble brewing Iraq.

‘Take Off’ is a fabulous response to a global tragedy called terrorism that has taken the world by storm. Without ever giving in to over the top sentimentality, it’s also a prolific account of the struggles of a few terrified human beings in the face of overwhelming odds that threaten to take their very lives.

This is indeed a tremendously ambitious film; one that has been shot on an imposing scale and one that gallantly ensures that all its aspirations are resourcefully realized. Running for two hours and twenty minutes, it takes enough time to establish its characters before placing them on the hazardous terrains of Iraq, with a horrific civil war raging on. ‘Take Off’ is thought urging cinema at its very best, and one that goes straight for your guts.

There are very few instances when the film gets sermonizing, and even when it does, much restraint is maintained. When Shahid runs into a wounded IS recruit who mutters Malayalam on his death bed, there is a brief discourse on what has eventually been gained. Shahid reiterates that Islam does not, propagate murder and violence. It also remains that this isn’t an exploitative film and takes a balanced stand on the political involvement in the real incident that has inspired the story.

The sense of unease that permeates through out is reminiscent of ‘Under the Shadow’ (Babak Anvari, 2016), the Iranian gem that took viewers by surprise last year. However beyond the basic premise of war and destruction and the long shadows that are cast over the lives of those that are left behind, the two films have very little in common between them.

Sameera is without doubt one of the finest woman characters that has evolved on the Malayalam screen, and the resolve that she exhibits to save her husband who has moved to Mosul from ISIS captivity is what leads the entire group to freedom. The situational trauma that Sameera goes through is further accentuated by the doldrums in her personal life, and Mahesh Narayanan adroitly builds up the tension, by bringing in her young son into the picture. Ibrahim soon enters a state of denial, when he realizes that his mother has married again and that she is pregnant. The bonding between the mother and son is one that is sans all the frills, and when Sameera tells Ibrahim that his dad wouldn’t be around anymore, the boy shrugs and retorts that he will be there for her, even if his dad isn’t.

There are the very subtle snubs on the miserable state that the nursing community is in, back home in India, and when the Indian foreign ambassador Manoj (Fahadh Faasil) irritatedly asks what it is that made them accept a job in a country as Iraq, Sameera states that it simply isn’t enough that they are called God’s angels, and that it requires money to run homes.

The film stuns you literally on account of its performances, and Parvathy is terrifically good as Sameera, and should easily sweep away all the acting accolades this year. Hers is a performance that combines intelligence, compassion and loads of empathy and the gravity that she brings in to the role is absolutely splendid. Kuchacko Boban is delightful in a role that he underplays, while Fahadh Faasil is as proficient as ever. There is the charming Asif Ali as well in a brief, and yet quite notable cameo. Gopi Sundar’s background score is one that admirably gels with the narrative, while Sanu John Varghese’s frames are top notch.

The biggest realization that ‘Take Off’ leaves in its wake is the thought that even as I key in this word in the comfy confines of my study room, thousands of horrified humans elsewhere are being subjected to unimaginable terror and torment for no fault of theirs. Which is what makes Mahesh Narayanan’s film an upsetting and thorny experience, but one without which your film year is bound to remain incomplete.


Verdict: Must Watch


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