Movie Review: ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ (Netflix)

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With the trailer of Janhvi Kapoor’s second offering ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ garnering a rather mixed response due to the current climate, it remained to be seen whether the film eventually delivered to the audiences what it was on paper. The biopic about IAF pilot Gunjan Saxena were huge shoes for Kapoor to fit into but with the likes of Angad Bedi and Pankaj Tripathi in the cast, it had the potential to create real magic.

Gunjan (Kapoor) has aspirations from a young age to become a pilot. However, when the avenue she chooses doesn’t work out, her father (Tripathi) brings to her attention that the Indian Air Force are recruiting for female pilots. Immediately wanting to do her best to get in, Gunjan starts preparing but falls short due to some physical attributes. However, with her father in tow as her biggest support, she tries her best to overcome the obstacles and eventually manages to make the grade. But will it be easy sailing once she’s there?

Having assisted on previous Dharma Productions’ projects, ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ (2013) and ‘Lust Stories’ (2018), Sharan Sharma makes his directorial debut with this biopic and it has to be said that it is no mean feat putting a real story in front of the audiences. Sharma has managed to derive some truly touching performances from the cast and made even those with small roles have decent impact. The entire feel of the story is very relatable and this is a huge plus for such a larger than life biopic.

Kapoor as the protagonist is quite a natural in this role. It’s not glitzy or pretentious but rather is very headstrong and hard-working and Kapoor fits right into the character. Her simplicity on screen is evidently something that works in the film’s favour because she comes across as unassuming when Gunjan is actually quite a strong woman inside. Kapoor’s scenes with Tripathi are truly some of the best in the entire movie, with the father-daughter relationship really evoking emotions and giving food for thought in breaking against what might be the norm. Tripathi essays this father role in such a heart-warming way, as expected. He has the perfect quotients of support, encouragement and love and these do not go unnoticed for the viewer or for Gunjan’s eventual career and actions. Bedi plays Gunjan’s brother Anshu and he steps into the kind of role that you’d almost expect the father to play – worried about how his younger sister will hold her own with all the men in the room and whether she will be able to look after herself. Bedi’s performance is decent and the scene where he says that he has no doubt that she will always be able to protect him when he needs it is particularly tear-jerking. Vineet Kumar as Fight commander officer Dileep Singh, who constantly puts speedhumps in Gunjan’s progress is an interesting one. Kumar is authoritative in the right places and makes you feel frustrated as a viewer – probably as you’re meant to feel. Manav Vij as Commanding officer Gautam Sinha has a decent role as the person who has Gunjan training under him and he teaches her well, putting her in tricky situations and giving her very measured good comments for the actions she takes. He is understated but is a real asset to the story. Ayesha Raza Mishra as Gunjan’s mother provides some light relief but also gives the traditional notions a look-in – wanting to know when her daughter will get married and why she has to choose such a career for herself. It would have been interesting if this was explored a bit more within the family unit in the film.

The soundtrack of this film could easily pass you by as you watch the film but you do realise that the songs are placed in such a way that they explain the feelings of the characters and situations really very well. In particular Dori Tutt Gaiyan sung by Rekha Bhardwaj and Bharat Ki Beti with vocals by Arijit Singh are the standout ones. Amit Trivedi’s compositions and Kausar Munir’s lyrics cannot be praised enough in all the songs that make up the album.

The one gripe for this film which perhaps may work against it for the viewer is that the family dimension could have had some more scenes to show the “tension” somewhat because it does feel like it’s too easy due to Gunjan’s father always being in her corner. Aside from this, it would also have been interesting to feel the personal feelings of Gunjan a bit more to understand her actions during the climax scenes. It is evident that she would have had to make the decisions very quickly but, for the audience, there could’ve been some more indication of why she is so confident in carrying out a mission against the advice of her seniors. This conflicting feeling is a little lost somewhere.

Watch this movie for a suitably inspirational and hopeful look at the life and times of Gunjan Saxena, a 24-year-old who contributed so much to the Kargil War. Kapoor and Tripathi’s on-screen partnership is definitely the film’s biggest strength and credit for this goes most definitely to the way Sharma has sought to portray it in the film. You will walk away from your screens in admiration for the real Kargil Girl and perhaps wanting to watch the film again to feel it all all the more.

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