Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl

There are two main ingredients for a film to succeed in India – one is the emotional connect with the audiences and the second is its believability or the authenticity. While this film has been able to connect with the audiences mainly riding on a real life story of a vulnerable female protagonist laced with the soft coating of patriotism, the authenticity of the film has been a compromise. The big production house has used a large canvas to make the film look authentic and it has succeeded partially, mainly in parts filmed at the Air Force Station including the sorties of the ‘cheetahs’ over the Kargil valley. However, some of the sequences like the absence of a ladies toilet or a ladies changing room look silly and contrived. The brazen bias shown against a lady officer during the training period seems to be unrealistic and I believe Indian Air Force has taken an objection to these scenes in the film for sending wrong signals to the public. But Bollywood cinema thrives on glamourizing silly things and this production house is no exception to this rule.

To my mind the life story of Gunjan Sinha had all the ingredients for making a powerful film but it would have required a stringently realistic treatment for the film including casting a new non-glamorous face for the role of Gunjan Saxena. But keeping in view that a big commercial production house in India cannot risk taking a new face on a big budget film; Janhvi Kapoor is the perhaps best fit for the role, out of the young female stars currently available in Bollywood. She looks lanky enough in the film making one believe that in the physical fitness test she could have met the height criterion, because of her long hands and long legs bridging the gap..  However, I believe, she could have done a much better job as an actor. Her acting talent really gets exposed, especially in the scenes, where she is pitted with stalwarts like Pankaj Kapoor. All the same, credit goes to her for risking her career by accepting a rather non-glamorous role. Few years back who would have imagined that a start-child that too the daughter of glamour queen Sridevi would be seen in a non-glamorous film? Signs of the changing times!

 Another issue in the film, which did not look very convincing to me, was the reason for Col Saxena’s motivation to support her daughter join Indian Air Force. It could not have been only ‘desbhakti’ alone as his son was already in Armed Forces. Besides, in the socio-cultural background, which Col Saxena represents, most of the parents aspire their sons and daughters to join either civil services or judiciary or academics (they swear by power of pen, ‘kalam –dawat’ as they call it). If I were the writer, I would have made father a non-commissioned officer (say a JCO). That would have added an aspirational angle to a non-commissioned officer’s desire to see his daughter becoming a commissioned officer and breaking a glass ceiling. It is like a constable aspiring his daughter to become an IPS officer. Also the character of a JCO would have gone well with the cinematic image of the actor .

Apart from father, mother and brother, the secondary cast of the film has done a good job .The credit for this must go partly to the casting director, whose name somehow does not figure in the list of the credits for the film. Cinematography by Manush Nandan is good. Amit Trvidei’s music is soothing. But the best part of the film is the editing by Nitin Baid (Masan, Trapped, Gully Boy), which does not allow any dull moment on the screen.

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O P Srivastava

A banker-turned filmmaker based in Mumbai. India.

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