Track 34 review: something borrowed, something blue

Ajay Devgn’s Runway 34which he directed, produced and starred in, is nowhere as ridiculous as Heropanti 2, the Tiger Shroff vehicle that was also released this week. But if you regularly watch Hindi movies, ridiculous is often better than uninteresting. Indignation at least keeps you awake.

Captain Vikrant Khanna (Devgn) is a commercial airline pilot, boarding a flight from Dubai to Kochi. They encounter turbulence on the way, which worsens as they approach their destination. Vikrant makes a tough decision: they will divert to Trivandrum instead of the normal save, Bangalore. A warning from air traffic control – imminent cyclone, do not land at Trivandrum – is not issued. By then the plane was nearly out of fuel and Vikrant had to execute an incredibly tricky landing on runway 34. He succeeded, with the plane coming to rest at the bottom of a precipice. One hundred and fifty passengers are saved (one later dies of a heart attack, which shouldn’t be relevant, but, for grossly sentimental reasons, is).

Also Read: Heropanti 2 Review: Hack work

So far defile. But Runway 34 doesn’t just steal a single Hollywood movie. It starts with Vikrant’s party in Dubai the day before his flight. Later, we see him – apparently – having a drink in the air. He’s a chain smoker, so we’re encouraged to think he has a drinking problem as well. After the flight takes off, he tells his co-pilot, Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh), to take over and falls asleep. The 2012 movie Flight had a similar setup – unsteady pilot, turbulent flight, miracle landing. The big difference is that, in this movie, Denzel Washington’s pilot really has a drinking problem; the film honestly takes this into account after landing. But if you think Devgn will end up being anything more than an exemplary hero in his own production…well, you’re the movie’s intended audience.

Runway 34 is based on a real-life incident from 2015, which involved a “blind” landing and subsequent civilian investigation. It was so defile was also structured, down to a crucial scene in a flight simulator. In Devgn’s film, investigator Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan) tears Vikrant and Tanya to shreds in court. But he’s so unlikable that the viewer has no choice but to root himself in Devgn’s taciturn, weary boredom. Singh looks terrified throughout and breaks down frequently. Boman Irani plays a Vijay Mallya-ish tycoon; in the scene where he verbally spars with the owner of another airline, they pull and smoke cigars like Bond villains.

It’s to the film’s credit that the high tension of the flight is believable despite atrocious CGI. A Jasleen Royal song is deployed at the worst possible time – and it somehow works. But the final hour is a relentless drag, with Bachchan’s joyful nudges, Singh’s crying and Devgn’s weary duty. Vikrant’s parting shot, to a young pilot asking for advice, is: “Always take care of your passengers.” Had Runway 34 stick to his passengers, this flight could have been more bearable.

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