Gunjan Saxena (2020) Review – Male or Female, A Pilot is a Pilot.

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In a country where the gender ratio is dwindling constantly, where one’s sense of pseudo honour leads to killing their own daughter, even before they can spell patriarchy, there a film like Gunjan Saxena feels like the thunderous rain after a prolonged drought. Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl made by the first time director Sharan Sharma is based on the life of the first Indian female pilot in the Indian Air Force.

Jhanvi Kapoor as the protagonist Gunjan Saxena does a steady job. There might be a viewpoint where the critics hold an opinion that it would have reduced a lot of performance pressure from her shoulder as people are unaware of the physical mannerisms and character of the real Gunjan Saxena. So there is no point of comparison readily available, and that people would accept what she is offering with her performance. But still, you cannot take away anything from her. What is important in doing a biopic is the soul connection, more than the physical mannerisms. One can see the subtleties and nuances in Jhanvi’s performance.

Janhvi Kapoor shares some strongest on-screen moments with the utterly watchable Pankaj Tripathi. As the father of a daughter who wants something, not accepted by society, he never lets her spirits bog down. He believes that hard work paves the way, even for things that might seem impossible at first. He is the fuel to the flame that ignites the spirit of Gunjan Saxena. In a society where marriage is analogous to “settling down”, he convinces her to make her career the utmost priority.

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Vineet Kumar Singh, Angad Bedi, and Manav Vij play their part with a lot of conviction, making their respective screen presence felt.

The Indian Air Force has objected to the negative comments made by the film on their work culture. I say it might be not true for the IAF per se, the film might be an exaggeration but we all know that the problem exists. We as a society are scared of change. We were scared when females stepped out of the kitchen, we were scared when they started sharing our workspace, we were scared that no longer will we be able to coerce our will. They would have a say in matters, other than what should be cooked for dinner. Equality is always disadvantageous to the oppressor.

One might not term the film as extraordinary but it has its heart in the right place. Among other things, it sheds light on the misunderstood meaning of patriotism. Sometimes all you have to do is be good at what you do. Chanting slogans of “Jai hind” doesn’t make you patriotic.

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Gunjan Saxena creates an imbalance in the patriarchal environment of our society. It reiterates the need to shed off our sexist perspectives because as the film says

“male or female if you drive the plane you will be called the pilot. So if the plane doesn’t discriminate then why should we?”

Sitting on my couch and watching the film, I almost whistled in that scene, unconscious about the fact that this time it was not the entry of a shirtless hunk in a commercial flick, but a mighty spirited female protagonist fighting the odds. And that I say is a change that I have longed for in Indian cinema.

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Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is streaming on Netflix India.

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Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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