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A nursing job overseas is a dream for many Indian women, especially for those bearing the family burden as daughters and wives. The money sent home will keep kitchen fires going and repay debts.

Malayalam film Take Off follows 24 Indian nurses who start a new job in Tikrit, Iraq, for better prospects. However, they are unaware of the impending storm that will soon topple their dreams and threaten their lives.

Directed by editor-turned-director Mahesh Narayan and produced under the banner Rajesh Pillai Films, Take Off soars high with a gripping and awe-inspiring story of one woman, Sameera, around whom this rescue drama is pivoted.

Sameera (Parvathy) is a nurse who supports her family even after her marriage. Fighting the odds is second nature to her, going by the way her life story is charted. As she says in one scene — “I have always been answerable to the men in my life: my father first, then my husband and now my son.”

But Narayan does not make this a story of women’s liberation, but of her emotions as a daughter, wife and mother. As she battles each phase, she is never portrayed as a frustrated person throwing up her hands and succumbing to life’s pressures.

Take Off’s strength lies in the positive traits of its different characters.

Shaheed (Kunchako Boban), Sameera’s second husband, is an understanding colleague, who hovers around her all the time without being intrusive. He is concerned and not merely in love with her. Like a parent he watches over her even while assisting her at work and takes her rebuffs with an indulgent smile. He tells Sameera that her son should know the truth about their relationship and steps aside for the mother-son to bond better.

Every character has been painstakingly sketched with distinctive traits such as the Iraqi doctor who refuses to treat a terrorist as Islam does not condone killings, and the Iraqi hospital manager who escorts a pregnant Sameera to the Indian embassy.

Parvathy’s stellar performance is seen in Sameera’s hurried gait, her Malayalam-accented English, her clear opinions, and her honesty.

If Take Off rides on Parvathy’s shoulders, Boban with his understated acting keeps it aloft. The onscreen chemistry between Parvathy and Boban is a delight to watch.

Lending a quiet dignity to Manoj, the official in the Indian embassy in Iraq, is Fahad Faasil.

Asif Ali’s Faisal (Sameera’s ex-husband) is remarkable too. Child actor Eric Anil shows promise. He brings out Ebrahim’s hurt and confusion as the child tries to figure out things in his mother’s life. Childhood innocence is well captured in the scene where Ebrahim recites the lines of the Quran in the presence of an intimidating terrorist.

Narayan is not in a hurry with his narration. He slowly builds up every scene enhancing it with little details that make it realistic. In the climax scene, you can feel the sense of relief and joy.

What a take off, Mahesh Narayan on your debut.

Sanu John Verghese’s camera work is brilliant while Gopi Sundar’s music complements the narrative.

Take Off is a riveting survival saga that will not leave you even after the curtains are down.