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Airlift – depicting the horrors of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
January 24, 2016, 6:06 pm

Reliving the trauma and horror of the brutal Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Indian film 'Airlift' encapsulates that horrifying event in Kuwait’s history. It also portrays how the Indian government stepped in to evacuate Indians and other country nationals stranded in the aftermath of the invasion in what has been termed the biggest human evacuation in history.

Starring Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar in the lead role, the movie pays tribute to late H.S. Vedi and Sunny Mathews who assisted many Indians stranded in Kuwait during the occupation and helped in organizing one of the biggest evacuation recorded in world history.

“I was surprised when I raised the issue of this evacuation and the brutal invasion of Kuwait that many of my friends, even in the media, were not even aware of the tragic event and achievement of the biggest ever human evacuation by India.   It was at this moment that I decided to make this movie,” recalls Akshay Kumar.

Talking exclusively to The Times Kuwait, Akshay said that reading the script he could feel the horror of invasion. “In one scene there is a Kuwaiti woman who runs into our camp and the Iraqi forces come searching for her. I told the forces that she is an Indian because our skin color is same.”

The movie according to Akshay is a glowing tribute to India which stood with its disapora in time of need to undertake the biggest evacuation. Based on true events that unfolded during the seven months of Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, Airlift narrates the story through the eyes of Ranjit Katyal, the fictionalized protagonist of the movie. Katyal, a successful businessman, who saw Kuwait as his second home and loved it as much as his own, finds himself helpless in the throes of the invasion and is forced to seek help from the Indian government to evacuate the hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded in Kuwait.

The movie broadly portrays the story of the late H.S. Vedi, who was Chairman of the Indian Citizens Committee at that time, and Sunny Mathews, both of whom played a significant role in helping with the evacuation process.

A highly successful businessman, Mr. Vedi was an architect by profession and had landed in Kuwait in 1967 from Delhi in search of employment. As a professional known for his keen eyes on minute details, Mr. Vedi designed several palaces and villas for the royal family in Kuwait and came in close contact with the ruler and Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber al Sabah who ruled Kuwait from 1977 to 2006 as both had one thing in common, their quest for perfection in designing.

It was but natural that during the invasion, Mr. Vedi who enjoyed direct contact with the Kuwaiti authorities as well as the Iraqi dispensation would help his fellow compatriots. The Indian Citizen Committee that he led worked day and night for the evacuation and safety of the Indian expatriates in Kuwait.  Mr. Vedi died in Kuwait in 2013 leaving a rich legacy of grit and determination and for his love of Kuwait.

Speaking about another hero depicted in the movie, Sunny Mathews, popularly known as Toyota Sunny, his granddaughter Rhea Mathews notes, “Talk to any returnee from Kuwait, who had undergone the ordeal of escaping from Kuwait, and they will tell you about Toyota Sunny. He helped so many Indians by either organizing their transport to India, giving them money which would come handy on the way, or more importantly, by providing them with food and water for the arduous journey across Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan. For thousands of Indians stranded in Kuwait, Mathews was a sort of messiah,”

A long-time resident in Kuwait, Mr. Mathews, who is currently the Managing Partner of Sefeena Group of companies and Chairman of Jabriya Indian School, was one of the founder members of the Indian Arts Circle and patron of various community organizations in Kuwait and India. During the invasion, he along with a few of his business friends, pooled resources to keep many Indians under one roof, providing them with their needs, including food and security, while continuing to pressure the Indian government to take immediate action to evacuate the stranded Indians.

At that time, Mr. Mathews who was then Managing Director of Mohamed Naser Al-Sayer and Sons Group, the dealers for Toyota automobiles in Kuwait, had several influential business contacts in Iraq. He leveraged these contacts to ensure the safety of many Indians captured by Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Iraq. The movie Airlift was released globally on January 22.

S.A.H. Rizvi, The Times Kuwait Correspondent

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reeva malhotra  Posted on : March 12, 2016 8:59 pm
I love this view ..nd more over d real heros of this inspire me alot ...lot of respect for mr. Mathew nd mr. Vedi....nd moreover AIR INDIA ...ND indian gov.........d last wording of d movie ...m aj ke bad kabhi nhi pucha mere desh ne kya kiya mere liye ..........i know my country is doing lot for me .....i love my india....PROUD TO BE INDIAN

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