Daughter of Hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 Pilot Writes Poignant Letter, Thanks NEERJA Film Unit

By Sana Topiwala

Sonam Kapoor at 61st Britannia Filmfare Awards Pre-Awards Party at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar
Sonam Kapoor at 61st Britannia Filmfare Awards Pre-Awards Party at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Mumbai, January 13 (Washington Bangla Radio) - The Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust recognizes outstanding Indian women fighting social injustice every year. It is named after the heroic Neerja Bhanot who sacrificed her life while protecting the lives of 359 passengers on hijacked Pan Am flight 73 in 1986. Neerja was posthumously awarded the highest civilian honors by three countries - The United States of America, India and Pakistan.

The trailer of the Indian Bollywood Hindi movie on Neerja has created quite a stir among the audience. Bollywood stunner Sonam Kapoor plays the title role. Shabana Azmi plays Neerja's mother in the film.

Preceding the film’s release, Nicole Thomas Fredrick - daughter of one of the pilots of the plane - has written an emotional open letter to the film's unit expressing her desire to watch the film.

Sonam Kapoor attends Neerja Bhanot Award ceremony in Chandigarh

Directed by Ram Madhvani, 'Neerja' revisits the story of courage shown by the 23-year-old Mumbai-based flight attendant who was posthumously awarded the Indian Ashok Chakra for bravery - the youngest recipient to bag the honor. She was also the posthumous recipient of the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award by the United States of America, Tamgha–e-Insaaniyat (awarded for showing incredible human kindness) by Pakistan, Justice for Crimes Award by United States Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, Special Courage Award by the U.S. government and the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry’s Award.


Through the heartfelt letter, Fredrick speaks about Neerja, her heroic efforts and the things that conspired that day. The letter reveals, “The film's trailer brings out the intense emotions that were going on at that time. I remember everything that happened in those 48 hours and this stirred up a lot of feelings for me again."

"Pilots were extensively trained to evacuate the aircraft for negotiating power. In 1986, terrorists didn't know how to fly airplanes, so that was a bargaining tool to buy time. She did a lot to save the lives of Americans and I will always remember that. I can't wait to see the film. Hopefully, it will release where I live."

She is not the only one; the makers have received numerous letters of gratitude from survivors for sharing their story with the world.

‘Neerja’ is produced by Bling Unplugged and Fox Star Studios, presented by Fox Star Studios, and the movie is slated to release on February 19th, 2016.