Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl

Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Vineet Kumar Singh, Angad Bedi, Manav Vij
Sharan Sharma

1999, most of us remember quite vividly seeing India at war. Knowing there are men at the border dying, defending our motherland and peace. Not much was spoken about the lady who stood amongst the men doing the same job and questioned at every turn whether she is worthy of her position. It is only after she proved herself, did she get the applause. The headlines, they came much later.

The Kargil Girl’s story begins in a typical army family, from Lucknow, that hopes to continue serving the country with their next generation. The son of the family is the obvious successor. But the father (Pankaj Tripathi) is aware of the dreams his daughter harbors. Little Gunjan always dreamt about flying, but the obedient little girl that she is, she knows the family expects her to study well and marry well, period. 

So, when she does graduate with flying colors (pun intended) it takes a lot of courage to sit her family down and tell them she doesn’t intend marrying someone they pick for her. Instead, she wants to make a career flying. With her mother and brother (Angad Bedi) absolutely against the idea of her joining the Air Force, her father telling her to open the cage and fly is a moment of exhilaration. From that moment on, her success, her efforts are all in the bid to make her father’s confidence, in her, succeed. 

But it isn’t easy for a girl to foray into a predominantly male domain. From finding a ladies’ washroom to wrestling men, Gunjan has to do it all. For someone whose war begins with her will to keep dreaming, and pursue that dream, becoming the first Indian woman to go into active war service, was a gradual succession. 

Nikhil Mehrotra (Writer) and Sharan Sharma (Director) have already put in a disclaimer, stating the events in the film are a dramatized version of Gunjan Saxena’s life, so there is obviously a little more tadka to her script. Yet, the execution is sans jingoism and overt drama. 

Gunjan Saxena concentrates more on the human story, as opposed to other war films. The war sequences, are in fact, secondary to the film’s script. So if you are intending to see it for an URI-like sleek action drama you will be sorely disappointed. The film’s USP is the father-daughter relationship and the girl’s determination to make it big in the world where men don’t think women have the grit, the physique nor the mind space to enter. 

Janhvi Kapoor, who plays Gunjan, is practically in every frame of the film. While she does well, there are a few rough edges that she still needs to chisel off. But Kapoor has made it a point to nail her climax sequences with aplomb. Like her first, Dhadak, even in Gunjan Saxena – Janhvi manages to ace the climax scene with her brother. Angad Bedi does well too, as does Vineet Kumar Singh. But the most charming actor in the film is Pankaj Tripathi. As Anup Saxena, Gunjan’s father, he is most affable. Given Nikhil Mehrotra has given us films like Dangal, one might hope a lot more from the father-daughter dynamics in Gunjan Saxena. While it remains the best part of the film, it is definitely not at par with Dangal which had a lot more layers.

Sharan Sharma’s first is certainly worth a watch, because the hard work is visible. Thumbs up to the team and of course, to girl power.

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