Hindi Reviews

Gunjan Saxena : The Kargil Girl (2020)

Faithfully women-centric and partly realistic in its approach, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl turns out to be a decent watch!!

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl tells the journey of its titular character, from her early struggles to become a pilot to her exploits in the Kargil war. Directed by Sharan Sharma and written by Nikhil Malhotra and Sharran Kumar, the movie is relevant for its portrayal of a National treasure and for its importance as a feministic tale of a girl who broke free from her cage to fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot.

Somewhere after half an hour of its run time, there is this beautiful passage in the movie that helps in explaining why I find it quite a brilliant work. After coming through the initial struggles to get selected at the Indian Air Force, a confused looking Gunjan Saxena wakes her father up in the middle of the night and asks him, “Airforce needs pilots who are patriots. But I just want to fly planes. I’m not being a traitor to the country for my dream, am I?” Father replies, “If you do your work with sincerity, you can not be a traitor to the country. You think the Airforce wants people who chant, ‘Bharat Matha ki Jai?(All hail Mother India?)’ No. They want cadets with goals and passion, who are sincere and hardworking at their training. Those are the cadets that make the best officers, who give their country the best. Be a strong, sincere, hard working pilot, you will automatically be a patriot.” Amidst the heroic true story of Gunjan Saxena, there is a heartwarming father-daughter relationship in play. The struggles of Gunjan Saxena to come up the ranks to become an airforce pilot were as much as her father’s. Anup Saxena, her father gives wings to his daughter’s dreams and helps her at every crucial junctures of her growth. At one point, when Gunjan is at the brink of giving up and is having the thought of settling down because of the gender discrimination she has to face at the IAF, her father intervenes and make her understand, “The solution is not to shut yourself in a cage, but to break free from the cage and fly.”

As evident from the aforementioned passage, the movie never resorts to overblown patriotism. Gunjan Saxena surely is a war ‘heroine’ who has to be celebrated both for her heroics at Kargil war, where she carried out around 40 successful rescue operations, and for her inspiring journey up the ranks to become the first woman IAF pilot in a combat. The movie hits the right chords while displaying the heroics of Gunjan, keeping the patriotism grounded.

Gunjan Saxena’s struggles to become an Airforce pilot and her successful involvement in Kargil war paved way for many aspiring young women and just like our title character, this biopic also can work in favour of many. The society’s expectations from a female right from her childhood is quite clearly depicted, the family and society decide what a woman is capable of. In the case of Gunjan, her struggle starts at home and it is against her brother and mother. When the young Gunju expresses her wish to become a pilot at the breakfasts table, her brother mocks her, but her father comes in support of her and says, “Whether it’s a man or woman flying the plane, they are both called pilots.” He goes on to ask her brother, “When the plane doesn’t care who is flying it, why should you?”. But her brother still doubted her capabilities even after growing up and becoming an army man himself and it changes only after her first mission. The movie not only shows the hurdles a women faces socially and professionally, but also her strength and the capabilities. For that matter, the makers have chosen the right person and tells her story ‘almost’ in the right manner. When Gunjan returns after her first successful rescue mission, the applause she gets were from a crowd of her fellow officers who didn’t even want to fly with her. Quite remarkably she saves the officer who kept reminding her that she is incapable to be an Airforce officer as she was a woman. That was a really a triumphant moment in this faithfully woman-centric movie.

But I think the movie doesn’t get it right when it comes to its portrayal of the IAF camp. While surely it could be true that Gunjan might have had to swim against the tide at the IAF camp, I am surprised to see not even one of her fellow trainees could relate to her. The toxic masculinity on show here surely felt like a little bit over exaggerated and highly cinematic, in this otherwise realistically pictured movie. The war sequences doesn’t turn too dramatic and the makers have tried to keep it plain and at the same time thrilling. The aerial images, coupled with the powerful score by John Stuart Eduri play their part in that too.

Ever since the movie was announced, Janhvi Kapoor has been getting a lot of unnecessary online trolls and abuses as part of the ongoing nepotism debate and the hate campaign against star-kids, but she comes out with an impressive feat. She looked quite believable and has done her homework in portraying Gunjan Saxena in a well-controlled manner. The vulnerability, confusions, the innocence and the excitement of young Gunjan perfectly fell into place according to me. But, Pankaj Thripathi simply was the star of the show with his subtle performance and scores profoundly as the father who is determined to help his daughter break the stereotypes. Ankad Bedi, Vineeth Kumar Singh and Manav Vij provide ample support through their respective roles.

While Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl has its flaws, but it has its heart in the right place and tells story of one of the most celebrated IAF officers in a convincing and to an extend realistic manner.

By sreenathjvm

I am a healthcare professional. An ardent movie lover. Writing about movies forever has been an obsession.

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