Debutant Sharan Sharma’s film about India’s first female combat pilot Gunjan Saxena is nothing out of the blue from what we’ve seen in the past with biographies. However, it does very well on the emotional aspect and is a heart-warming tale of a woman trying to make her mark in a toxic masculine world.
The film starts itself with a disclaimer that this story is a fictionalised and dramatized version of the film, and very early on we understand what it means. The film opens up with a girl wanting to look out of the window of the airplane but being denied by her brother who just wants to sleep. The hostess sees this sad girl and takes her to the cockpit where not only are passengers not allowed, but the pilot also lets her steer the plane. That feeling is enough for her to realise what she wants to become in life, a pilot.
Before she ever got to flight school, we were already shown Gunjan (Jhanvi Kapoor) fighting. Very early on when she decided to fly, she was mocked by her very own brother, who said yeh ladkon wale sapne hain. Enter Pankaj Tripathi, who says only one thing, “plane mard chalaye ya aurat, dono ko pilot hi kaha jata hai.” Anup Saxena becomes the wing for Gunjan.
The film follows the template biopic route, wherein our protagonist finds a way to stand out from the rest. When her flying school dreams are crushed, fate throws in a curve ball. The Indian Air Force starts recruiting females for the first time, and all Gunjan cares about is an opportunity to fly. However, thanks to being her father’s favourite and never being stopped to dream high, when she enters the real world, she faces the deep-rooted patriarchy wherein there are no female toilets in the barracks because it is just assumed that Air Force was a place only for men.
Writer Sharan Sharma, along with co-writer Nikhil Mehrotra don’t go for the style or sophistication but rely on emotions to tell their tale and succeed in doing a great job. Sharan Sharma’s film isn’t something out of the blue, but presses the emotional buttons in a way that’s satisfying for a viewer to watch. The film’s core then becomes a lady trying to not just enter a male dominated world but to match and even surpass them at the task at hand, because talent and passion are gender neutral.
This simple yet satisfying narrative is powered by great performances, with the biggest share given to Pankaj Tripathi. Yet again we see an actor and not a star, honing his talent and love for the screen. Pankaj Tripathi as Anup Saxena very early on becomes the father everyone hopes they have. His liberal ideas are supported by his calm and endearing nature and as a former army colonel, he is relentless in pushing his daughter to achieve what she wants rather than being tied down for what society wants her to be.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a story about a young, brave and India’s first female Air Force Officer who at the age of 24, was deployed during the Kargil war of 99 and carried out over 40 missions. The film, which is a book ending, is strongest when it’s not about war, but about the fight Gunjan faces as she never gives up in pursuing her lifelong dream, and that is to be a pilot.