Gunjan Saxena endears and will hopefully end social ills
Putting aside anti-Karan Johar and nepotism issue in Bollywood, I was really impressed by ‘Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl,’ which is not a traditional war movie but a fight by a woman for her rightful place in the male-dominated Indian Air Force.
This is a highly recommended movie for those who wish to empower their daughters, granddaughters and women to fight against discrimination against women in workplace and in the community.
I do not normally write film reviews but reserve that exercise only to films that touch my heart and some raw nerves. ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl,’ a Yash Raj biopic did exactly that.
About Gunjan Saxena
Gunjan Saxena (Janhvi Kapoor) is one of India’s first women combat aviators and was an Indian Air Force (IAF) Officer who flew helicopter missions during the 1999 Kargil War and is attributed to have saved more than 1000 lives.
Flight Lieutenants Gunjan Saxena and Srividya Rajan paved the way for others to follow.
In 1999, Gunjan became India’s first woman combat aviator to fly Cheetah helicopters in the Kargil War zone. The 24-year-old pilot was tasked with medical evacuations, supply drops, and mapping enemy position duties.
War against discrimination
The movie wages war against male chauvinistic patriarchal mind-set and discrimination against women. Here, the brother insists that his sister would suit as a stewardess and the mother, worrying as when her daughter will get married.
Gunjan finds a friend in her supportive father who silently fights for her in every way possible.
He is who I call a feminist father who empowers his daughters.
The movie starts with a shot in a passenger airliner where, as a child, Gunjan wishes to have a window seat and the brother denies it. An understanding stewardess sees her interest and takes her to the flight deck which fascinates her.
Gunjan decides to become a pilot.
However, Gunjan was in a conservative parochial India, fighting her own battles at the same time, in a male- oriented establishment in Air Force, where females were zero, and not meant to be, hence there were no female toilets or changing rooms.
Despite anti- Karan Johar and the debates of nepotism in Bollywood, this is one inspirational movie about empowering our daughters. This is the story of Flight Lieutenant Gunjan and not about daughter of Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, sister of Arjun Kapoor or niece of Anil Kapoor.
Therefore, I recommend all mothers and grandparents to see this movie with the family to inspire their daughters to reach for the sky.
I have recommended my daughter Ragni to show this movie to my granddaughter Rania Chand and inspire her to fight all odds in a male – dominated society.
If you think this is a war movie with all gore, blood and shouting divisive slogans on India and Pakistan, you are wrong. Despite all the main characters being soldiers, it is still about what it is being a woman in a man’s world trying to make space in a man’s dominated fields.
‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ appears to have been well researched, which should tell you all that you need to know about empathy.
You do not have to belong to a marginalised social group (a female) to develop an understanding of their concerns. You just need to listen and observe without prejudice, arrogance, the persecution and discrimination that affects so many in India and worldwide.
Unlike other Bollywood war movies, this one treats the war scenes almost procedural, which in itself is a quiet reminder that defence personnel in reality are human beings at work, not speechifying Hindi film heroes, who shout chest-thumping hatred against the enemy country.
This movie recounts an individual’s personal story, staying determinedly intimate even in war scenes. It is not about one remarkable woman, but about every remarkable woman that ever lived.
Inspiring and watchable
‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ is a very inspiring and watchable movie about sexual discrimination on our daughters. It is a deeply moving tale of a feminist father and his gutsy daughter who fights all odds to reach her childhood dreams of reaching for the sky.
This is not about war alone, but about a woman what she wants and can do that any man can do. This film is about war, but the scenes are not showing killing machines but the rescue operations by these human beings who are saving lives.
This movie is about sexual discrimination, and the fight by a gallant woman to reach for the sky. While there have been many Bollywood movies on and around sexual violence, rarely have we seen one which tells the tales of social conditioning in women’s career choices, casual misogyny and extreme discrimination at the workplace with such accuracy and detail.
It reminds me of my daughter Ragni Singh Chand (who still retains her father’s surname even after marriage) who, like me, enjoyed reading Perry Mason’s courtroom tales in Earl Stanley Gardiner books of 1970s. She wished to be a lawyer from a very young age. And like Gunjan, she was lucky to have a feminist father, empowering her to reach her goals.
Being in Fiji, to study law in New Zealand does not come cheap in 1999 and early 2000, but I did my best to see her graduate with Masters in Law from Waikato University, with the aim of one day sitting on the bench of High Court of New Zealand.
I hope that our male-oriented society can learn that male chauvinism and discrimination are threats to progress and human development. And your own daughters and loved ones could be victims of this short-sighted prejudice.
I also hope that we will be fairer, sensible and more compassionate to make a difference to the discriminated women in workplaces – and in everyday real lives.
And more than anywhere, this is still very relevant in modern India today.
Thakur Ranjit Singh, a Fiji-born journalist and media commentator. He lives in Auckland and runs his blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ Email: email@example.com