Film on Kandahar hijacking in the pipeline

It will be 20 years since India witnessed the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999. A film is being planned on the infamous hijacking that saw the then Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, secure the release of 176 passengers and crew in return for the release of terrorists, most notably Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group.

Producer Sarita Patil has acquired the rights to IC-814 pilot Captain Devi Sharan’s book, Flight Into Fear: The Captain’s Story, that was co-authored by Srinjoy Chowdhury and Captain Devi.

Captain Devi, who still works for Air India (Indian Airlines has now merged with Air India) said that he continues to be haunted by the incident.

“20 years on, IC-814 continues to haunt me. The 188 passengers and us, members of the crew of IC-814 are united in experience and memory that is impossible to erase and eliminate. It defines who we are. I did what I was trained to do, and what I was taught right from my childhood – to uphold people’s trust,” Captain Devi said in a statement.

“I have known Sarita for a very long time. She comes from a family of aviators and I trust her to deliver a fair, true to life account of this hijacking. I’m fully on-board and happy to help her on this project,” the pilot said about choosing Patil as producer.

Patil is an experienced production person who has worked on films like  The Dirty Picture (2011), Drishyam (2015) and Lucknow Central (2017).

“I believe this is a great story of courage and determination of a Flight Commander displaying the right instincts and presence of mind in the most unexpected and trying circumstances. Captain Devi Sharan is a true hero who stuck to his duty despite the biggest threat — the threat to life, not just his own, but also to the lives of those he was responsible for. The Kandahar hijacking is a film that will hold many lessons and important reminders for all of us especially given the tumultuous times we are in today.”

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IC-814 was to fly from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi on 24 December 1999. Shortly after it entered the Indin airspace, the flight was hijacked by terorists, later identified as members of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The terrorists took the flight to several locations, first refuelling it in Amritsar, then taking it to Lahore and Dubai, before finally landing it in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that was then ruled by the radical regime of Taliban.

The ordeal for the passengers and the crew finally ended on 31 December, when the BJP-led government agreed to release three dreaded terrorists — Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who got the death penalty for kidnapping American journalist Daniel Pearl, and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar. One passenger was stabbed to death, while a few others were injured.

In 2016, director Ram Madhvani had made Neerja (2016), a film on the heroics of the late flight attendant Neerja Bhanot of Flight Pan-Am 73.

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