Akshay Kumar’s ‘Airlift’ recounts the real hero 'Toyota Sunny' in Kuwait

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's been over 25 years since 1,70,000 Indians in Kuwait were brought back home over 59 days in 488 flights post the Iraqi invasion.

When the biggest evacuation in history unfolds on the silver screen in the Akshay Kumar starrer 'Airlift', the family of real hero of the biggest human evacuation in history, Sunny Matthews, recounts the heroic involvement in saving the lives of lakhs of Indians.

When Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait during the gulf war in 1990, more than one lakh Indians were stranded here. The entire country was in a state of terror and the residents suffered great tragedies and loss. This was when the Indian government came forward to rescue the Indian community and airlifted over 1,70,000 people with the help of 488 flights in just 59 days. After everyone was rescued, Air India’s name was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the civil airline that had evacuated the most people till date.

Akshay Kumar starrer ‘Airlift’ that hit the screens last Friday is based on this operation. When the film 'Airlift' is out, granddaughter of the real hero in evacuation Mr Sunny Mathews recounts about her grandfather’s contribution. “Talk to any returnee from Kuwait, who has undergone the ordeal of having escaped from Kuwait and he’ll tell you about Toyota Mathews. Mathews is the person who has helped many Indians by either organising their transport, or giving them some money which would come handy on the way, or more importantly, providing them with food and water for the arduous journey. For thousands of Indians stranded in Kuwait, Mathews has been some sort of messiah,” Rhea Mathews recounts.

Sunny Mathews, popularly know as Toyota Sunny, is an old time Indian businessman in Kuwait. Currently the Managing Partner of Sefeena Gen. Trad. & Cont. Co. W.L.L. & Sefeena Rent-A-Car Co and also the Chairman of Jabriya Indian School, Mr Sunny Mathews is fighting with the old age illness at his house in Kuwait. He with the help of few of his business friends pooled in resources to keep all Indians under one roof and also looked after their food and other needs. He and his friends continued pressurising the Indian government to take immediate action to evacuate the stranded Indians.

He was the Managing Director of the Mohamed Naser Al-Sayer and Sons(Al-Sayer) Group for over 33 years, overseeing their expansion and rise as one of the Top Trading Houses in Kuwait. He was one of the founder members of the Indian Arts Circle and patron of various Community organizations in Kuwait and India. Through his business, Sunny Mathews had connections with Iraq. Those contacts came in handy when faced with this crisis and he took it upon himself to make sure that the Indians stranded in Kuwait were safe, of course with the help of other business people and Embassy and Air India officials.

The character of Ranjit Katyal, played by Akshay Kumar in the film Airlift is a composite of Sunny Mathews and other such personalities in Kuwait who turned saviours when the war broke out. Airlift was released last Friday with the total number of 1,800 to 2,000 screens in India. Overseas, including Middle East, the film released with total number of 70 screens on 21 January. The film had its highest opening in Emirates with the amount of AED 900,000, breaking the records of widest released film. The film earned Rs 12.35 crore (US$1.8 million) during its first day run on 2,500 screens in India. The film will be released in Kuwait on January 28th.

Update: According to latest updates from KNCC, the film Airlift will not be released in Kuwait on January 28th

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