Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020) | Janhvi Kapoor

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Hey guys, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. Inspired by the life of Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena, who continues to be an Air Force officer, despite having the name of an actual war in its title, is not about the war, and to a huge extent is not even about Gunjan Saxena. While the story follows the Air force officer’s life, from when she was a kid, till the Kargil war, it focuses mainly on what Gunjan represents, in a landscape, that is both unreal, and extremely relatable at the same time. 

I approach war movies with slight trepidation now. Is this going to glorify violence? Is overt nationalism going to overshadow the storytelling? Is this going to be just another loud background scored, yet bland depiction of events as they took place, without attaching any nuance to the whole unfortunate and ghastly reality that a war is? Writers Nikhil Mehrotra and Sharan Sharma, the latter also being the director, don’t focus on the chest thumping, that in advertently becomes the main focus of so many films about war. Their writing, despite being setwith Kargil in the background, despite almost all the main characters being soldiers, is still about what it is to be a woman in this world, trying to make space in male dominated fields. 

In a scene, Gunjan says to her progressive father, played by the most amazing Pankaj Tripathi sey, ek raat panic mein kehti hai, ki “air force mein aisey cadets hone chaahiye jin mein desh bhakti ho”. “Mujhey toh bass plane udaana hai”, to which her father replies, that the air force needs cadets who are sincere honest and hard working, not people who will just yell “Bharat Maata Ki Jai”. 

Reason that scene is here is that till now only conflict the film had put forward, was that, no one takes Gunjan seriously when she says that she wants to fly, then why self-doubt? It Solidify message,that this is not a tale that wars are fought at borders, but its about battles this woman had to fight, just to be able to do, what she wanted. And that’s pretty great clarity of thought, don’t you think. 

Director Of Photography, Manush Nandan too, doesn’t treat this like a war film. There are very few scenes of actual battle, and gunsand things, most action sequences are rescue ops, and the camera operates on a human level, as opposed to viewing people as killing machines. 

You know what’s refreshing? The film’s acknowledgment that women and men are different, and for women to be taken seriously as people, there doesn’t need to be more man-like behavior in their attitude, in their traditional sense of the term. To achieve this ,Jahnvi Kapoor borrows from her own personality. She has a bit of sadness about her. Her face, without moving a muscle even, depicts deep seated unhappiness and a struggle to come to terms, with sexist realities like the lack of women’s toilets at her posting in Udhampur. She is soft spoken and slightly timid, when we first meet her, and remains so, right till the end. 

Even when in war, she doesn’t suddenly turn into Tiger Shroff and starts flying choppers, while hanging upside down and shooting enemies at the same time. She tells someone else to do it. Because she finds no joy in disobeying direct orders, or yelling at her supervisors. In one scene she barges into a party and yells haphazardly at a senior officer. Here too, she’s confused about what she is hoping to achieve, and her words are not words of ahero who is showing the soft-villain, his rightful place, jiskey baad soft-villian will turn his mind. But through the film, Gunjan is very much her own kind of woman, feminine in her own way, with only her determination as a tool to make her way, through horribly unbalanced systems, never tipped in her favor. Unlike last week’s Shakuntala Devi, this film, doesn’t cram too much into the screenplay. 

When we meet Gunjan at different ages in her life, (a fun little montage, has her go from10th pass, to 12th pass, to Bachelor’s degree), these jumps are only used to establish her characterand her relationship with her constantly present family, and her gradual understanding, of the aforementioned systems of the world, as opposed to long drawn out episodes, which come and go at breakneck speeds. Most of the actual action and conflict, is set at the IAF institute in Udhampur and some in Srinagar during the Kargil war, which really gives us time and space to…you know….get involved. 

The best dialogue, very generously, has been given to Pankaj Tripathi, who, I toh just cant get enough of, at all, ever, please give me more. Because Gunjan is naive and unaware, and her mother and older brother are not interested in empowering her much beyond education, its her father, who silently fights for her, in every way possible. The machismo brought by Angad Bedi, playing the older brother and Vineet Kumar, playing a supervising officer, is not rewarded at the end of the film.

 They actually kind of, in slightly clumsy moments, even accept defeat. Which I can’t even believe is a real thing that happened. Gunjan Saxena, as a 24 year old, only woman in the Kargil war, contributed towards saving nearly a 1000 lives. It’s a story of determination and patriotism, but also compassion and humanity. A mix of sentiments, which Sharan Sharmabalances quite successfully. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, Gunjan Saxena:  The Kargil Girl is 6.5.

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