Gunjan Saxena essays the life of a young girl who harbors a rather uncomfortable dream — to become an air force officer — much to the annoyance of those around her. And, that’s exactly what sets the tone of this low-throttle biopic of India’s celebrated first Indian Air Force lady pilot in combat, Gunjan Saxena.
Despite being warned of how dicey the path is, Gunjan takes a leap of faith and decides to give her dream a shot. She gets off to a rocky start— rejections compounded by daunting perspectives, and everything in between. But, Gunjan perseveres nevertheless.
The movie resonates with young Indian women on multiple levels — how they are pressured into “settling down” when all else fails or while at a career crossroads. The streak of realism makes it all the more worthwhile a watch, as Gunjan packs her bags and decides to call it quits at one juncture after facing varying degrees of humiliation at the Udhampur Air Force Base. This comes after repeatedly failing at reporting on time for practice sessions due to the lack of changing space for women to enduring snarky remarks at the hands of chauvinistic officer Vineet Kumar Singh. There is a particular instance in the movie where Singh blurts out “We are here to fight for the country, not to give equal opportunity” in reference to Gunjan’s multiple defeats at a game of arm wrestling with a male cadet. The dialogue evokes a gush of emotions that sync with women who have been made to feel powerless for things that shouldn’t be considered a barometer of their strength in the first place. Life takes a 360 degree turn after Gunjan gets an offer of a lifetime: To serve at the Kargil war in Srinagar.
It’s safe to say that Janhvi Kapoor does justice as the protagonist to this excellent storyline, so do Angad Bedi and Pankaj Tripathi in their respective roles. In fact, Pankaj Tripathi is spot-on in his portrayal of a supportive father, who drops a few gems to push his daughter to try harder when she reaches the brink of suspending her dreams for good. Angad Bedi strikes the perfect balance between a sceptical brother rooted in the stereotypical male Indian reality, but progresses into a supportive sibling as the movie unfolds.
The movie is sure to give you twinges of pain if you have let gone of that dream, which you thought was impossible to achieve. And, it will also be relatable for those who have braved discomforts of all kind — negative seniors, over-protective family, and those little monsters in the head.
Gunjan Saxena makes for an impressive watch with a storyline which highlights misogyny that triggers feelings of angst, but stumps it exactly at the tip to ensure the theme doesn’t lose its highlight — the power of dreaming big. Gunjan was 24 when she served in the ’99 Kargil War, and hence zeroing in on Kapoor as the lead seems fitting.
Tile: Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi
Director: Sharan Sharma