gunjan saxena

The poster for ‘Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl.’ (Netflix photo)

What strikes us first about this film, ‘Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl’ is its transparent sincerity: to show how the first woman pilot came to be in our Air-Force.

Gunjan Saxena is fascinated with planes from childhood when a friendly air hostess takes her into the cockpit during a flight. And she wants to be a pilot.

But it’s an uphill struggle at home. Her mother is especially against her flying, and her brother, an Army officer, tries to discourage her as well in the name of safety. Gunjan’s only and solid pillar of support is her ex-army officer dad (Pankaj Tripathi).

But when becoming a pilot is not possible because it takes big money to join a flying school, her father shows her an Air-Force ad. A long struggle of ups and downs follows, and her father is by her side. Finally, Gunjan is taken into the Air-Force. And fresh problems begin, this time with a hostile officer (Viineet Kumar Singh) and gender discrimination.

Admittedly, this part has been quite exaggerated and this has justifiably aroused the ire of the Indian Air-Force. Clearly, there are two reasons why such an exaggerated degree of license has been taken: one, to show that her path here is as much of a struggle as in any other hitherto male-dominated profession.

Two, it is to demonstrate that Gunjan is so sincere and accomplished, especially later when India is at war, despite the opposition from male colleagues that leads to her being deliberately deprived of training sorties.

However, the real is soon blended with the reel, and a dramatic twist given when the very officer who ridiculed her is rescued by Gunjan in an evacuation mission. The film stops at that point, not touching her later life, like her needing to be decommissioned in 2004, from a technicality that is no longer there today, her marriage and so on.

There is a general air of sobriety in the film and there is no heavy-duty action or heroics. The tensions are more personal. This makes the film somewhat bland as a biopic. But it does successfully convey the struggle of a doughty girl who wants to be in a profession largely dominated by men. Her single-minded determination, laced with moments of self-doubt and despair, are brought out effectively.

All this makes “Gunjan Saxena” more of a personal film than a patriotic action drama, but it scores in making a case for the fact that women can be no less than men even in the armed forces, especially if there is inherent passion to excel.

Janhvi Kapoor is perfect for the role and goes much beyond her maiden performance in the finer nuances. Pankaj Tripathi as her father—in one word—is stupendous. His low-key laconic yet affectionate demeanor is so lovably done he steals the show. Viineet Kumar Singh is very effective as Gunjan’s bête noire. Manav Vij impresses as the senior who supports Gunjan. Ayesha Reza Mishra is good as the mother. But Angad Bedi as her brother is stiff and just ho-hum.

The music sucks because of the Punjabi overdose. Please, Saxena hailed from Uttar Pradesh!

Watch this one for the well-written simple script and neat acting and execution that scores despites its flaws and paucity of action. Delightfully, at a crisp length of 1.52, it still entertains and never bores.

Rating: ***1/2

Produced by: Karan Johar, Hiroo Johar, Apoorva Mehta & Zee Studios

Directed by: Sharan Sharma

Written by: Sharam Sharma & Nikhil Mehrotra

Music: Amit Trivedi

Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi, Vicky Ahuja, Riva Arora, Ashish Bhatt, Raunak Bhinder, Viineet Kumar Singh, Gulshan Pandey, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Rachna Parulkar, Yogendra Vikram Singh, Manav Vij & others

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