New Delhi: As the country celebrates national hero Neerja Bhanot, thanks to the success of the film Neerja, the citation of her Ashok Chakra, India's highest peacetime gallantry award, has now been made available online which details the heroic exploits of the 23-year-old stewardess who was killed while saving the lives of passengers during the 1986 hijacking of a Pan Am flight. (In Pics: Amul's Utterly-Butterly Tribute to ‘Dare Hostess' Neerja)
Released by Fox Star Studios, producers of Neerja, the citation describes Neerja's gallantry and her courage under fire. Neerja was the first civilian and the youngest person to be bestowed with the Ashok Chakra. The valiant national hero, who saved 359 lives, helped evacuate everyone on board but was shot while leading a group of children to safety.
The citation says: "Showing tremendous presence of mind and quick reflexes, it was her instant shout of 'Hijack,' which alerted the flight crew, who immediately escaped, thereby immobilising the craft. With the exit of the flight crew, she took command of the situation and kept the terrified passengers calm. She deftly managed the situation and prevented the trigger-happy hijackers from going berserk.
Her loyalties to the passengers of the aircraft in distress will forever be a lasting tribute to the lasting qualities of human spirit. She thus displayed the most conspicuous bravery in the face of grave adversities and tried to save the life of passengers at the cost of her own life."
India remembers Neerja again! The Ashoka Chakra citation for #Neerja Bhanot's courage & bravery. pic.twitter.com/oWeLOtpLUE— Fox Star Hindi (@foxstarhindi) February 23, 2016
Amul's latest ad toasted Neerja in its own quirky way. The advert, a spoof on a scene from the film, showed the Amul girl sitting in Sonam's lap along with two other children. The tagline aptly reads, 'Dare Hostess.' In Neerja, Sonam plays the titular role of the stewardess who died while saving lives on hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986.
Amul Topical: Bollywood biopic-braveheart #Neerja . #NeerjaBhanotpic.twitter.com/vGunQccAnS— Amul.coop (@Amul_Coop) February 23, 2016
On Twitter, Neerja's brothers Aneesh and Akhil Bhanot thanked the makers for 'preserving her dignity':
Fab little thank u from @AneeshBhanot n @AkhilBhanot#Neerja 's brothers bout d film.— atul kasbekar (@atulkasbekar) February 22, 2016
Thank u for ur trust guyspic.twitter.com/a822bJuG1r
Amul earlier celebrated Neerja by releasing an Eighties ad for a chocolate brand which featured the real-life Neerja Bhanot, who once pursued a career in modelling.
Neerja Bhanot in #Amul#Chocolate Ad in the 80's. #Neerja#NeerjaBhanotpic.twitter.com/dreQzgOc8J— Amul.coop (@Amul_Coop) February 20, 2016
A recording of an in-flight announcement made by the real Neerja Bhanot was recently released on YouTube by the makers of the movie.
Sonam, who had tweeted the video, had described it as the 'voice of courage.'
Neerja opened to widespread acclaim last Friday. NDTV's Saibal Chatterjee, who gave it a 4-star rating said in his review of the film, "Sonam is of course the lynchpin. Even when pushed well out of her comfort zone, she is completely convincing and real as the bubbly youngster with nerves of steel."
Co-produced by photographer Atul Kasbekar, the film also co-stars Shabana Azmi as the slain stewardess' mother Rama Bhanot. Composer Shekhar Ravjiani makes his acting debut.