Cockpit soar & scare

All of a sudden the flight lurched... There were audible gasps, writes Tota Roy Choudhury, recounting his sky-scare story in a piece for t2 after watching Dev’s Cockpit

  • Published 18.10.17
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Team Cockpit — Dev, Rukmini Maitra and Prosenjit — at a special screening of the Kamaleswar Mukherjee film at Cinepolis, Acropolis mall, on Sunday. Pictures: B. Halder

AUGUST 2014

The open-top SUV sped in front of me. It was travelling towards the hilltop. I chased it opening the throttle of the motorbike, keeping a clear 10ft gap. The speedometer read 60kmph. Manoeuvring the windy road especially the hairpin bends was getting trickier. Dangerous even. But the passengers in the SUV cried out shouts of encouragement. Especially the Director of Photography (DoP). It was the last day shoot of Shapath in Vizag. In fact, it was the last shot of our entire schedule. Nagesh, the DoP, flashed me a thumbs-up sign which was my cue to zoom past the SUV and head towards the entrance of Rama Naidu Studio. It was a wrap for the film and there were rounds of group hugs (no, the heroine wasn’t present).

Then it started pouring

We ordered for chicken pakoras and the famous filter coffee from the studio canteen. As we were about to relax on the sea-facing benches the sky opened up. I mean REALLY opened up! It was as if the man up there simply turned on the giant tap in the sky.

Scampering for a shade was futile now and we happily got drenched. Some were even jumping in puddles! I still marvel at the fact how grown-up men turn into kids when away from the prying eyes of their wives! Some even turn naughty but that’s a different story. It rained torrentially throughout the night. I had to fly to Calcutta the next afternoon while the rest of the unit would travel later in the day.

It was still raining heavily when I reached the airport. The ground staff assured me that the departure was on schedule and checked me in. I boarded the flight, buckled up and relaxed with a paperback. The stewardess announced that owing to inclement weather, the flight would be slightly delayed. That ‘slight’ turned out to be 45 minutes and it was the first omen which we all were, naturally, oblivious to. The take-off was uneventful to the untrained eye (or ear) but the plane rattled and apparently struggled for quite some time.

The bumpy ride

Around the 40-minute mark, the second omen appeared. Though I stand wiser in retrospect, one couldn’t really recognise it then. The plane shuddered, the seat belt sign came on and a stewardess, trying to get to the public address system at the front, stumbled! Now, flight stewardesses are quite sure-footed, if you have observed. Them stumbling and right after the flight quavers means bumpy ride ahead.

All of us were asked to buckle up. I looked out of the window. My watch read 2pm. Yet it was dark outside. There was sort of a rumble emanating from beyond and the aircraft rolled. I heard someone retching, somewhere in the end rows. The muscled, tight black

T-shirt clad dude across the aisle gripped his armrests as if he was attempting a dead lift and stared fixedly at the seat pocket with an expression which clearly read that he was not looking forward to dying today.

A mother with her surprisingly quiet infant enquired but the stewardess with a professionally modulated voice replied that this was routine during monsoon. Yeah, right!

Koel lends a certain dignity to her role and yet balances it with an endearing vulnerability

The turbulence tale

All of a sudden the flight lurched towards the left. There were audible gasps and more retching, this time closer. To me, this was really scary. Not the lurching but the retching. To be covered by someone’s puke was worse than death itself! The stewardesses too sat on their respective seats. Jaws set and lines of consternation visible. A dead giveaway that things were not right. Thick sheets of rain fell on the window panes. Visibility was near zero.

A child started howling, which made the ambience even grimmer. The guy beside me started breathing rapidly. I thought he was having a panic attack. He looked at me helplessly.

I repeated what the stewardess said, that this was routine during monsoon. My words sounded hollow to my ears. However it eased the guy, a bit.

After about 90 minutes, the slowest one and a half hours of my life, the pilot announced that we would be landing at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kawlkota (his pronunciation) and a cheer went up. Muscled dude released the armrests and checked his biceps half expecting to find that the storm may have eroded a quarter of an inch from his arms.

The flight touched the tarmac, bounced up and landed with a final thud. While disembarking, the stewardess with professional courtesy asked, ‘Hope you had a pleasant flight?’ I said, ‘Miraculous, no?’ Her smile froze and then her eyes twinkled confirming that it was not an ordinary journey at all, to put it mildly.

PUJA WEEK 2017

It was a morning show of Cockpit. Sharmili and I had already pre-booked the tickets. Incidentally, Dev and Koel (Mallick) are one of my favourite on-screen pairs, having worked with them in Bolo Na Tumi Amaar and Paglu 2, both widely watched and legitimate hits unlike many Twitter-hits of today! A young couple sat beside us reminding me of those days when I used to sneak out with my then girlfriend-now wife during Puja to catch a film.

As Dev entered the screen wearing a pilot’s uniform, donning shades and pulling a trolley bag, the guy beside me exclaimed, ‘Jio paagla’. The way all the various characters were introduced and the movie unfolded, was novel. Dialogues were peppered with intelligent humour and the situations were entirely believable. Full marks to the director, Kamaleswar Mukherjee.

And then came the portion where Dev and crew had to face turbulence and battle the tempestuous weather. I said, ‘Damn’.....errr.... In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually muttered the F-word.

Wife: ‘What?’
Me: ‘Reminds me of my return journey from Vizag.’
Wife (sarcastically): ‘So the pilot was as handsome as Dev?’
Me (retort mode): ‘Don’t know but the stewardesses were as pretty as the ladies on screen.’
She gave me ‘the look’... a single glance, which is a judicious combo of annoyance, disdain and wrath. A Meryl Streep-worthy expression!
But as the on-screen storm intensified, the calm in the cabin evaporated and the true selves of the characters emerged. I could find a lot of resonance with reality vis-a-vis my experience shared earlier. This portion along with the crisis faced by the pilots and the helplessness of the ATC, were the highlights of the film.

Cheers for Cockpit

Human drama, if supported by engaging performances, is eternal. Dev, Koel and Rukmini  (Maitra) bring in their A-game. Koel lends a certain dignity to her role and yet balances it with an endearing vulnerability. This is, by far, Dev’s career-best performance. Having a pilot as my sister-in-law allows me to observe their contrasting nature, first hand. Off-duty, they are like any other normal and fun-loving human being. But once they don their uniforms, a certain gravitas and a sense of profound responsibility emanate from their demeanour. Dev displayed this dissimilitude in perfect measure.

Which brings me to the performance of the film. In her debut film Chaamp, Rukmini was slightly unsure of herself, much like all of us in our first film. But the quantum of improvement in her second film is truly astounding! Whether pining for her lover or displaying icy professional courtesy to him when he marries someone else, her performance is internalised and first rate! Paranda (as usual), Priyanka and Ambarish are terrific and deserve a special mention.
The number of interesting character actors reinforce the structure of this film and I salute them all for giving their best even in bit roles. And to the director of photography, Subhankar Bhar... jio paagla!

The biggest applause is reserved for producer Dev who, in only his second production, abandons his comfort zone and puts his weight and money behind a project which many seasoned producers would not have the courage nor the comprehension to produce.

And thank god he does that, since as a part of this industry, I can proudly say that films like Cockpit are made here in Bengal.

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