The story we all know
A little girl born in the times before the roaring 90s in India. She (printf: Gunjan Saxena) obviously struggles in her life. But her educated father (read: Ashok Kumar Saxena -her father) who has a progressive outlook supports her despite the society’s apprehensions. She has a brother (read: extract it from this Netflix release) who’s neutral to her progress. A mother worried about her well being as she’s out of norm for a normal middle class girl.
She fulfils her dream (of becoming a pilot) after a long struggle. Gets into the field that she dreamt of. Faces discrimination based on gender. One of the bosses is dead against her progress. Another with lesser authority supports her. An emergency pulls up. She’s not allowed to clear the situation despite being a capable person. Because? She’s a woman. Then when she’s the last option, she’s given the chance. And what happens next is an inspiring tale of a famous personality brought on the big screen by Bollywood.
Dear Bollywood! Real life is different
But real life is different. A lot of psychology involves. Yes. A first woman in any field faces a few shocks. But they are expected. If she faces gender based discrimination, it’s condemnable. But logistics? Or conveniences? Gunjan Saxena's first posting was in Udhampur, as part of the 132 Forward Area Control (FAC), where she had to face many gender based challenges like adapting to makeshift changing rooms and toilets until new ones were built for women. It’s not discrimination buddies. No need arose till that point. (Read on)!
Gunjan Saxena says: The time I spent there is one of the most cherished memories of my life. It helped me evolve, not just as an individual, but also as a professional, as an aviator. On the first day my instructor told me that ‘you may be here as a lady pupil, but when I sit in the cockpit with you, I wouldn’t remember that you are a lady pupil. And the aircraft also doesn’t know who is flying it, male or female, so I am going to train you as well as any other pilot. That’s the way you should also look at it.’
Gunjan Saxena stresses the fact that the male pilots accepted the situation faster than she expected and helped her mingle quickly.
Over-dramatisation and the troubles it cause
So, over dramatisation of the facts and reality by the films make the shown-in-the-film departments angry. IAF rightfully objected to the negative portrayal of work culture in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
So, leaving aside the facts Vs dramatisation discussion, Gunjan Saxena is a fairly watchable film which is well made. It’s a truly, made to experience it in theatres, film. The audio is lost in translation on low quality (or low end) mobile devices or small screens. The exhilarating war sequences could only be experienced on a big screen. But as it’s a direct OTT release now, we better confine ourselves to reality of it.
The Dharma Productions film is like a classic fairy tale where an underdog wins finally with perseverance, goodness and hardwork. The narration and screenplay both are straightforward. Classic three act structure is used with the beginning showing Gunjan’a early life and how and why she wanted to become a pilot and her relationship with her family. The second act shows her struggles and the discrimination she faced in the work field (of course, over dramatisation and cinematic liberty have taken course here) and the climax where she involves in a heroic act.
Janhvi Has talent
If we remove the final 30 minutes, the film is ordinary and has no significance in a sea of inspiring films that’re coming out left right and centre these days. Coming to her performance, Janhavi is here to stay. Leave aside her privilege as the daughter of Sridevi. A star kid. And all the nepotism complaints. She proved that: she’s a good actress and has a potential to be a great one if right opportunities come.
That! We have to agree. Whether it’s a star kid or an outsider, a talent must be called talent. Janhavi Kapoor is not much of a looker but she’s a good actress. At least when it comes to this film. Her ease in showing various emotions and the spark in her eyes should not be discounted because of the fragile emotions of people these days.
Pankaj Tripathi shines
For the rest of the actors, Pankaj Tripathi - the Pankaj Tripathi - excellent as Gunjan’s father. Angad Bedi is indifferent in his role as Gunjan’s brother. Vineet Kumar Singh as the Wing Commander - Gunjan’s sexist superior is good. But his characterisation is one-dimensional.
The best part about this film apart from good performances and the final 30 minutes is: emphatically telling desh bhakti is not about shouting slogans or jingoism but to do your job with utmost sincerity.
Sharan Sharma’s direction in his debut is neat. The narration is gripping and is simple. The minimalist screenplay worked in the favour of the film. The music is good too.
As a movie - a biopic - Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a well made and watchable Film for anyone. But in the larger context, Bollywood’s tendency to over dramatize and twist the facts to suit their narrative do more harm than good. And by the way, even if she’s not Sridevi’s daughter, we can say Janhvi Kapoor did an excellent job in this movie. Adios!
Khelo Rating: 3 out of 5