Gunjan Saxena; The Kargil Girl Review: Jhanvi and Pankaj Tripathi shine in this high-soaring biopic.

CelluliodTales Rating: 4.0/5

Cast: Jhanvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi

Director: Sharan Sharma

Producers: Karan Johar, Somen Mishra

Music and BGM: Amit Trivedi

We as humans tend to shy away from the truth, for many obvious reasons. Some are intimidated by the truth while some others are too shy to reveal the truth. There is also a category of people who are afraid of others' response when they get to know the truth. But, the fact is: Sometimes, the truth can be more beautiful than what we imagine, it can be more inspiring than we think. It can also make people mend their outlook, give-up their stereotypic/biased thinking and embrace a broader outlook. Today, let us look at one such truth: Gunjan Saxena.

Biopics are being well received by the audience across India since the dawn of the previous decade. Starting with The Dirty Picture, way back in 2011, till the most recent Shakuntala Devi(2020), one or two biopics kept hitting the silver-screen almost every year and also pulled a good number of audience to theatres. Few note-worthy biopics like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Paan Singh Tomar, M.S. Dhoni, Mahanati e.t.c.; not only entertained the audience but also fetched prestigious awards to the cast and crew. The latest addition to this biopic line is Gunjan Saxena. Based on the life story of the First Women Pilot in the Indian Air Force, this biopic gathered a lot of pre-release attention. Directed by a debutant Sharan Sharma, this movie has been released on OTT platform Netflix. Let us jump into the review without further ado.

In the opening frames, we see a young Gunjan Saxena declaring to her family that she wants to be a pilot. While her mother and brother discourage her, her father Lt. Col (Retd) Ashok Kumar Saxena, (Played by the inimitable Pankaj Tripathi) backs her and encourages her. As Gunjan clears her higher studies, she approaches the Delhi Flying Club to fulfil her dream. But, when the authorities demand exorbitant amount for her fees, she heads back home, dejected, bearing in her mind her family's economic condition. One fine morning, her father shows her a news-paper Ad, by the Indian Air Force(IAF), inviting women applicants for pilot posts for the first time. Though hesitated at first, upon the encouragement of her father, Gunjan, clears all the tests with flair and gets her posting in Udhampur base. This entry of a young woman-pilot into a male-dominated Air-Force base forms the crux of the story. In an Air-Force base, where even the basic amenities for women were not available at that point of time and being the only women amongst many men, how did Gunjan manage to dodge various challenges that she faced? How sexism influenced her passion? What were the challenges faced? And also, what was the reaction of society when they heard about a woman going to war? To find the answers, watch in on Netflix.

Jhanvi Kapoor, playing the lead role, pulled off a fine performance. It is a daring decision to take up a biopic, that too in early stages of her acting career and she made it look believable. Not that she was flawless, but one can overlook minor glitches in the larger interest and mostly owing to her inexperience. One thing is for sure. Jhanvi made an emphatic statement with this movie, that she is not only made for Barbie-doll like characters and that she can act well too when the character demands. Next, we have Pankaj Tripathi, who aces any character he takes up. I think he is the only actor in Indian cinema, who speaks more in silence than his dialogues. Angad Bedi did well as Gunjan's concerned Army brother. Gunjan's mother was also aptly cast. All other IAF officers fit their bills perfectly.

On the technical front, the story is real and the screenplay is fine. Few dialogues (spoken by Pankaj Tripathi) stay with you even after watching the movie. The editing is very crisp. The total runtime is 10 minutes short of two hours and is kind of ideal for OTT releases. Sound design is good and music by Amit Trivedi is also just about okay. The song Bharat Ki Beti (sung by Arijit Singh) stands out in the album. What I like is that despite being a war-oriented movie, the BGM doesn't overpower the narrative with chest-thumping beats and loud trumpets. It kind of blends into the narrative. The production values by Dharma Productions are top-notch.

This movie is not a typical war-oriented movie, where you hear blazing guns and chest-thumping background score and where the lead role massacres hundreds of enemies single-handedly. This movie is a take on the yester-year outlook of the Indian society about women(and the opinion that they are fit only for running kitchens and make parathas.) It also delivers a beautiful message that being sincere in whatever work we do is the true patriotism that the country needs today.

As the Independence day approaches, celebrate it by staying at home and watching our Bharat Ki Beti, Soaring high in the sky, paying an ode to our motherland and inspiring the daughters of India...

Plus Points:

1. Performances (Jhanvi and Pankaj)

2. A fine balance of emotion and action

3. Simple BGM

4. Crisp Editing

Minus Points:

1. Few under developed Character arcs

2. No scene of her receiving a medal for her bravery.

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