Bell Bottom is a 2021 Indian Hindi-language action thriller film directed by Ranjit M Tewari. The film is written by Aseem Arrora and Parveez Sheikh, with production by Vashu Bhagnani, Jackky Bhagnani, Deepshikha Deshmukh and Nikkhil Advani under their respective banners Pooja Entertainment and Emmay Entertainment. It stars Akshay Kumar as the lead character, with Lara Dutta, Vaani Kapoor and Huma Qureshi in an extended cameo appearance. Bell Bottom is inspired from real life hijacking events in India by Khalistani separatists during the 1980s, such as the Indian Airlines Flight 423, 405 and 421 hijackings.
Principal photography began on 20 August 2020. The film was wrapped up on 30 September in London. The film released in theatres on 19 August 2021 in 3D. The film received mixed to positive reviews, praising Kumar’s and Dutta’s performance, art direction, fast paced narration & screenplay, background music & cinematography, but criticised the low quality VFX shots in action sequences and weak climax.
In 1984, Indian Airlines Flight 691 (resembling Indian Airlines Flight 421) is hijacked, the seventh such hijacking in India in five years, with all the previous ones ending in acquiescence to the hijackers’ demands that other terrorists be freed and money be delivered. During her briefing, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, frustrated at the lack of action taken on the matter, decides to allow a RAW agent code-named “Bell Bottom” to handle the case. As a “mere” clerk, he is already viewed with consternation by the other officials, and his deduction that the alleged masterminds, a Khalistan separatist group named “Azaadi Dal” (lit. ’Liberation Organisation’), are merely a front for Pakistan’s ISI are rebuffed by them due to improving Indo-Pakistani relations. After the plane lands in Amritsar when he predicted it would land in Lahore, he is dismissed. However, his supervisor points out that he is an expert on hijackings and is motivated by personal experience.
In 1979, polymath Anshul Malhotra lives with his mother Raavi, an asthmatic who constantly visits his brother in London, and his wife Radhika. Her flight is hijacked by terrorists, but then-PM Morarji Desai and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq negotiate and fulfill the hijackers demands in exchange for the hostages’ release. However, Raavi dies, reportedly due to natural causes. Soon after, though, Anshul is abducted by RAW, who reveal that one of the hijackers, Daljeet “Doddy” Singh, had purposely withheld her inhaler, pusher her into the galley and thrown heavy blankets on her, increasing her suffering as she died. Anshul is given the offer to join RAW; he accepts and takes on the code-name Bell Bottom, with his cover to his wife being that he is an embassy officer. After his training, which showcases his extraordinary memory and improves his previously subpar physical skills, he is assigned to the hijacking desk. In 1983, he finds one of the hijackers while visiting his brother in London and tracks them; he raids their house with other RAW agents and captures three of them but the fourth, Doddy Singh, escapes.
Back in the present, the plane takes off from Amritsar and lands in Lahore, prompting Gandhi to order Anshul back in. He convinces her to “break script” and disallow the Pakistani side to send their negotiating team, and orders them not to refuel the plane. In response, Zia sends his minister to keep track of the situation. In Lahore, the minister replaces the hijacker with Doddy and supplies weapons and explosives. Correctly figuring that they will go to the Middle East to take advantage of their naivety in aerial terrorism, Anshul prepares for a covert operation in Dubai against the Indian ministers’ wishes. Meanwhile, the Pakistani minister goes to Dubai to observe what is going on and guide Doddy.
Upon arrival, Anshul and his team, disguised as diplomatic aides, meet up with a contact in the Dubai airport, where they see Dubai’s emphasis on humanitarianism and avoidance of bloodshed. Their first plan, covertly entering the aircraft and disarming the hijackers, is foiled when the Pakistani minister notices and closes the luggage door. Anshul’s “plan B”, sending in the Indian army, is also curtailed when the Dubai officials are notified and the ship they are on is denied entry. With all avenues cut off, the ministers go to negiotate; although they agree to the terrorists’ demands of money, more terrorist releases, and a charter flight to London for freedom, they are surprised at the terrorists extreme inhumanity and one of them is taken hostage as a “VIP” target to be held until they get to London. Seemingly out of options, Anshul asks their airport contact to take them to a under-construction terminal so they can view the proceedings; however this is a ruse as Anshul reveals his knowledge of the contact’s betrayal and ties her up. Disguising themselves as airport workers, they take advantage of a sandstorm to get on the field, free the VIPs, and capture the terrorists, redirecting the charter flight to India. The leader of Dubai denies them take off clearance at first, but after Anshul explains how their methods fit in with Dubai’s humanism, he grants it. In India, the terrorists are booked, with Zia and the ISI leaders huffing in disgrace, and the flight is returned, with all on board safe and sound and reunited with their families. In the end, it is revealed that Radhika was actually working for RAW and had informed them of her husband’s abilities and background in the first place.
Akshay Kumar as Anshul Malhotra / Agent Bell Bottom
Lara Dutta as Indira Gandhi
Vaani Kapoor as Radhika Malhotra
Huma Qureshi as Adeela Rehman
Adil Hussain as Santook
Denzil Smith as R. N. Kao
Aniruddh Dave as Puchchi
Thalaivasal Vijay as P. V. Narasimha Rao
Zain Khan Durrani as Daljeet Singh aka Doddy
Dolly Ahluwalia as Raavie Malhotra
Mamik Singh as Aashu Malhotra
Abhijit Lahiri as Khurshed Alam Khan
Sumit Kaul as Dollar
Sunit Tandon as ISI Chief
Jatin Negi as Sundar
Amit Kumar Vashisth as Saand
Kavi Raj as Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
Husam Chadat as Farhad Bin Sultan
Anjali Dinesh Anand as Anshul’s Sister-In-Law
Ashok Chhabra as Morarji Desai
Balram Gupta as Home Minister
Girish Sharma as Anshul’s Friend
Nitin Khanna as Dubai Policeman
Karim Saidi as Abu Mukhtar
Deesh Mariwala as Tejeshwar
Ahmed Yahya Berrada as IB Official Of Dubai