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Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl review - Of internal battles and a war

Janhvi Kapoor film breaks various barriers, even when sticking to the unlikely hero-wins-the-day formula.

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday 12 August 2020

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Movie Title

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl review - Of internal battles and a war

Director

Sharan Sharma

Star Cast

Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi

Based on the story of air-force pilot Gunjan Saxena who displayed extraordinary courage during the ’99 Kargil war, the film is as much about her personal trajectory as it is about her professional achievements.

We all know what her professional triumphs are (she was among the first women IAF officers, for starters). Her personal story is that of overcoming gender discrimination both at home and at the workplace. Gunjan’s brother casually states that girls can’t be pilots, and the workplace doesn’t even have the facility of a toilet for a woman. Her male colleagues are terrified of working alongside her (what if she cries), and her immediate senior is most upset at having to deal with a woman. These are the everyday internal battles she wages, till she gets the chance to professionally shine in an actual war.

The film breaks various barriers, even when sticking to the unlikely hero-wins-the-day formula.

For one, its patriotism is more layered and nuanced. In fact, Gunjan frankly states that she’s joining the Air Force so she can fly planes, wondering if that makes her unpatriotic. What a refreshing change from the chest-thumping nationalism we’ve seen in films off late.

The film also breaks the cliché of extending the main event (in this case, her bravery in evacuating injured soldiers) to create drama. In the film, it’s more about her backstory, the events leading up to the evacuation, and what happens after. The actual act of bravery is a couple of scenes, and yet tremendously effective.

The film is strikingly shot by Manush Nandan and Amit Trivedi’s music (lyrics by Kausar Munir) is yet another point in favour of the film.

Janhvi Kapoor carries the film on her shoulders with a rare nonchalance— fully invested, yet not overdoing the effort. Folding in a soft vulnerability with eyes that reflect contrasting strength and determination, Kapoor portrays Gunjan as someone who is non-confrontational till pushed too far. Someone who’ll obey the senior’s orders, till she realizes she knows better. Pankaj Tripathi is fabulous as the supportive father (who is also thorough with kitchen ingredients, as we realize in a scene). The supporting cast has solid performances across the board.

In one of my favourite scenes, a dejected and about-to-give up Gunjan attends a friend’s wedding. The friend, after a six-month struggle, decides to give up her dream and get married. That night Gunjan wonders if she too should “settle down”. This exquisite scene represents the dilemma that arrives in the life of every person who chooses the road less travelled. Should they ‘settle’ like the people around them, or should they persevere on a challenging path where the outcome is unknown?

There are so many such gems in the movie. It’s interesting how a woman’s safety is constantly the reason to keep her metaphorically chained. As a character says – ‘Her safety is more important than her happiness.’ Another pivotal moment is Gunjan telling off a male family member, who loves her but also wants to maintain the status quo. Thankfully, Gunjan has her father to guide her out of doubt, and we cheer for her as she decides to follow her heart.

That’s the thing about this movie co-written by Nikhil Mehrotra and Sharan Sharma (who is also the director). It gets you to care about Gunjan Saxena and her journey from the time she, as a child, sees a plane’s cockpit for the first time and her eyes light up. As we see the unbridled delight on little Gunjan’s face, we cannot help being moved. It was a goosebump moment for this writer. There are several such moments in this biopic.

Uplifting, sincere, and engaging—the film is among the finest to have come out this year!

 

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

 

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