Runway 34 (2022): The Flight To Destiny

Ajay Devgn is back in an all-in-one avatar as an actor, producer as well as a director! This time he has developed his home production movie titled “Runway 34”. Starring himself as Skyline Airway company’s Captain Vikrant Khanna alongside Rakul Preet Singh as First Officer Tanya Albuquerque, the film takes off at theaters all across India on April 29, 2022.

Captain Vikrant was all set to depart from Dubai airport to pursue his journey along with 150 passengers on board to Kochi in India. He along with First Officer Tanya took off from Dubai. But when they reached Kochi, they encountered heavy air turbulence due to bad weather.

Ajay Devgn as Captain Vikrant Khanna and Rakul Preet Singh as First Officer Tanya Albuquerque in Runway 34

Captain Vikrant had an adamant attitude and he didn’t listen to Tanya’s advice to divert the plane from Kochi to Bangalore. Instead, he chose his own way and diverted the plane to Trivandrum airport where they got caught up in a cyclonic storm! Captain Vikrant realized his mistake and in zero visibility he took a huge risk and successfully landed the plane just a few meters short of a crash. He had even made a Mayday call moments before landing which he was required to make long before when he was facing zero visibility in mid-air.

Due to the erroneous pilot decisions made inside the cockpit, which endangered the lives of 150 passengers on board, Vikrant and Tanya had to face the wrath of the investigation and interrogation conducted by advocate Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan). The narrative moves away from the cockpit and evolves into a locked-door courtroom drama. Whether Vikrant and Tanya would come out clean and justify their decisions during their trial forms the crux of the story.

Runway 34 (2022) Official Trailer:

The Good:

A Crisp Screenplay

The screenplay of Runway 34 written by Sandeep Kewlani and Aamil Khan was crisp and captivating as it did not involve any slow moments. The best part of the screenplay is that the central characters like Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn), advocate Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan), and First Officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh) has been focused throughout the entire run duration of 2 hours and 30 minutes. There were a lot of characters in this thrilling aviation drama however; too much emphasis was not placed on these characters as it could have ruined the movie’s flow. The flow of the movie was also kept intact by the precise editing done by Dharmendra Sharma.

The flight passengers in Runway 34

Some of the insignificant characters of the passengers shown inside the plane aroused my interest. For instance, the flight’s passengers comprised an ailing senior citizen, an irate businessman, a crying baby, a middle-aged man who prefers free drinks on board, and even a popular YouTuber named Ajey Nagar who looked strikingly stupid showing his wide eyes and teeth to other fellow passengers and his tongue was sticking out of his mouth every now and then! These characters of the flight passengers added to the thrill of the drama while the plane faced stormy turbulence and ended up in an emergency situation.

Runway 34 also has an essence of emotion attached to it as sentiments built up when an old lady among the 150 passengers on board the plane died of a heart attack may be due to the tensions caused during the blind landing.

Spectacular Cinematography

The visuals of Runway 34 were simply fascinating. This visually immersive aviation drama involved the smart utilization of cutting-edge visuals and CGI which made the scenes look direly realistic. Starting from the plane taxing on the runway, its take-off to its getting caught up in the cyclonic storm; everything looked striking. The landing scene looked so real that I almost forgot that I was actually watching a movie! It’s the scene where Captain Vikrant takes a risk and makes a blind and miraculous landing just a few meters shy of a disastrous crash. My compliments go to Aseem Bajaj for this cinematic masterwork.

The take-off scene in Runway 34

Fascinating Performances By The Lead Cast

Ajay Devgn with his hard-hitting dialogues and cool attitude in the shoes of Captain Vikrant did have a strong impact on the audience. Also, Devgn and Rakul Preet Singh have on-screen chemistry to watch out for! The duo shares a professional relationship in Runway 34 where Rakul Preet plays First Officer Tanya beside Devgn who plays Captain Vikrant. Captain Vikrant is shown turning a deaf ear to her suggestions to land the plane at Bangalore airport when they were caught up in the storm at Kochi. He refuses to listen to her and takes the plane to Trivandrum instead for a landing where they get caught up by the storm even more severely than before. However, together they successfully pulled the plane out of danger by finally making a risky landing with scenes filled with a gamut of emotions. I must say, the duo did rock the plane as well as the show throughout the first duration.

As Runway 34 is Devgn’s brainchild as well as sole-proprietorship, he probably was aware that the best female star cast opposite him would be none other than Rakul Preet! The on-screen duo was a hit in their 2019 film “De De Pyaar De”. This could have possibly made Devgn select Rakul Preet as the lead actress for this film.

Ajay Devgn Has Achieved What An Actor Can Only Dream Of!

If you would like to try your luck in the film industry, what would you desire to be; an actor who enthralls the audience with his performance, a director whose work receives praises from the audience, or a producer who owns a film? Well, Ajay Devgn is all these three for Runway 34! He has solely produced and directed this movie and is the lead actor himself.

Being a veteran actor in Bollywood, Devgn has ruled the action genre for decades. His charisma, style, killer expressions, and unbelievable action stunts have fascinated the audiences since the 90s. Now by showing his caliber as a director and producer alongside being an actor in Runway 34, Devgn has proved himself to be an all-rounder in the Bollywood industry.

The Bad:

Inspired By Hollywood Movies

Even if the screenplay is good, the story is not! I mean, if you have seen movies like Flight (2012) or Sully (2016), this will be nothing new to you. Reports say that Runway 34 is based on a true incident of 2015 where Jet Airways’ Doha to Kochi flight had a narrow escape while facing visibility issues due to bad weather at Kochi airport. The pilots had to risk the lives of 150 passengers on board and make a blind landing on the runway without actually seeing it. The story of Runway 34 is the same but after watching it I can see a lot of resemblance to “Flight” and “Sully”.

Ajay Devgn as Captain Vikrant Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan as advocate Narayan Vedant in Runway 34

I will tell you what actually happened during the filmmaking. Devgn might have summoned two of the smartest writers in Bollywood (Sandeep Kewlani and Aamil Khan) and made them watch “Flight” and “Sully”. Following this, they might have been told to devise a script based on these two movies, and they did. The end result is what you see in “Runway 34”, where the plot is actually a mix of the 2015 true incident as well as “Flight” and “Sully”.

The Thrill Builds But Ends Up In A Stodgy Courtroom Drama

Runway 34 has several captivating instances in its first half and was successful in building up a lot of thrill and excitement among the audience. However, the first half ends abruptly as the plane makes a risky landing. The second half of the film develops into a courtroom drama where Captain Vikrant was questioned for the abrupt and illogical decisions he made at 35,000 feet above the ground which endangered the lives of 150 passengers on board the plane. The investigation of Captain Vikrant and his co-pilot Tanya was carried out by advocate Narayan Vedant who interrogated them on the decisions they carried out during the flight.

Captain Vikrant’s closed-door trial on the go

During the courtroom investigation, it was revealed that Captain Vikrant was all drunk and wasted the night before the flight and perhaps the hangover got the most out of him! The court investigated whether he was dangerously drunk to be not considered fit for flying a plane. Also, Captain Vikrant didn’t listen to First Officer Tanya’s suggestion to divert the plane to Bangalore during the storm and instead chose his own alternate destination. And just moments before the landing, he had given a Mayday call to the air traffic control tower which should have been given by him long before! These were some questionable offenses of Vikrant which were investigated during his closed-door aviation trial. Vikrant was also shown smoking several times while flying a plane which is absolutely illogical! Wait, isn’t smoking supposed to be prohibited inside a plane? So, how come as a captain of a flight he smokes?!

The scenario inside the courtroom was all heated up with tensions building with each rising question at Vikrant. But I feel that they dragged this part a bit too long. The courtroom trial consumed a major portion of the narrative and yet failed to prod sufficiently on the matter as to why Captain Vikrant didn’t adhere to his First Officer’s advice during the air turbulence. The closed-door trail ended a bit too abruptly where certain investigations and evidence revealed Captain Vikrant to be a “hero” who saved the day instead of a drunken, over-confident and obstinate flyer.

Aakanksha Singh as Captain Vikrant Khanna’s wife Samaira Khanna in Runway 34

Amitabh Bachchan, the original “angry young man” of Bollywood, is soon to turn 80. He was once famous for his dialogue delivery and rumbling voice. But with age, he has lost the rumble in his voice. His rumble was appearing more like a mumble at times during the interrogation scenes with Captain Vikrant. I must say, the bizarre extreme close-up camera shots at him during the interrogation scenes looked pretty harsh for an actor who is about to turn 80 and looks that way too!

Boman Irani played the role of Skyline Airway company’s aggressive and selfish owner Nishant Suri, who doesn’t care about anything except his own profits. He carried out his role diligently but his short role didn’t provide him too much space to prove his talent. Aakanksha Singh as Captain Vikrant’s wife Samaira too carried out her role proficiently. However, her role was short as well which didn’t give her much scope for an intriguing performance.

The Verdict:

The plot has Captain Vikrant making a Mayday call to the air traffic control tower just moments before the landing which he should have done long before upon sensing danger. Perhaps this is the reason why the original title of the film was decided as “Mayday”. However, just before the film’s shooting was wrapped up, Devgn decided to change its name to “Runway 34”.

Boman Irani as Skyline Airway company’s owner Nishant Suri in Runway 34

Runway 34 is based on true events and it really does showcase one of the scariest and near-disastrous mishaps in India’s aviation history. The first half of Runway 34 does portray a potentially fair-minded in-flight human error. I must say that the storyline and screenplay of Runway 34 are edgy, fast-paced, and engaging enough and will instill loads of thrills and suspense during the first half. However, you will experience that thrill fading away if you happen to be a Hollywood movie buff like me and are used to watching all types of Hollywood films that show such feasible air disasters quite often.

At times the savior does become the culprit! You must be familiar with the ending scene of the movie, “The Dark Knight”, where Commissioner James Gordon told his son about Batman when he took the blame of Harvey Dent’s crimes upon himself. When Gordon’s son asked him why Batman was running away as he didn’t do anything wrong; he told his son, “Because he is the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he is not our hero. He’s a silent guardian; a watchful protector; a Dark Knight”. Captain Vikrant was also tagged as a culprit which ultimately resulted in his investigation and interrogation. However, unlike Batman, people did recognize him as a “hero” in the end.

Overall, I must say that Runway 34 could have been a runaway success if it had been solely inspired by true events rather than by building up a spiced-up storyline that involves instances inspired by other films. Such issues take a deep dig at the film’s originality and claim that it has been “inspired by true events”.

Runway 34 is basically a one-time watch movie. You won’t find that same excitement to watch this movie repeatedly because of the familiarity of its plot. I would suggest that you choose to watch this movie in theaters rather than on an online streaming platform. In theaters, you will get that ultimate cinematic experience with amazing visuals lining up as Captain Vikrant takes the flight to its destiny.

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  • Acting - 8.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 8/10
  • Rewatchability - 5/10
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About Subhadeep Kumar Ganguli

Meta film critic. Never make the same mistake twice. Make it three or four times just to be sure 😉

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