“Jo log mehnat ka saath nahi chodhte, kismet kabhi unka haath nahi chodhti”
This line perfectly epitomizes the lives of at least 2 people connected to Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. The first one is undoubtedly Flt Lt Gunjan Saxena. Her resolve and resilience are par excellence and she deserves all the applause. In fact, much more than what this film showers upon her. The other is an actor who has come through the ranks after years of struggle, and now gets trolled for acting in a Dharma Production alongside Jhanvi Kapoor - Pankaj Tripathi.
Flt Lt Gunjan Saxena is an inspiring and driven individual who was just like any other girl, full of hopes and dreams. The game-changer for her was a supportive father who believed in her even when she herself didn't. This comes out really well in the film. Pankaj Tripathi is pitch-perfect in every scene such that you can go on watching him endlessly. Actually, that might just be true for all of his performances, from Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Newton (2017) to Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and Stree (2018). Jhanvi delivers what is required from her, playing the innocent and protected daughter. She also holds her own in the IAF scenes and does not look out of place. The role does not require her to be overly dramatic and hence, she keeps the portrayal of Gunjan Saxena real and believable.
The film is sort of a mixed bag. There are places where the film scores over the likes of Shakuntala Devi (2020) but falters at others. It has visible flaws that cripple the inspiring real-life tale of Gunjan Saxena and reduce it to a forgettable film. Issues crop up more so in the second half, as Gunjan gets posted in Udhampur. Things become highly fictional and her entire achievement gets reduced to a game of Men vs Women. IAF has already spoken against it and rightly so. If you see Gunjan's feat only through the lens of the assumed Misogyny prevalent within the IAF, you would be doing a grave disservice. Not only to the IAF but also to Gunjan. That's because her accomplishments are far greater than just standing up to bullies or misogynists.
The film may inspire (in parts) but unfortunately, it may also dissuade in equal measure. Women could look at Gunjan in awe for standing up against all odds. At the same time, they may feel that this life is not for them. To my mind, this should never be the feeling you take away from such a film. If young girls had seen the film and felt, 'if she can do it, so can I', that would have been more like it.
Watch Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil girl to celebrate the real-life hero it is based on. Watch it for the impeccable Pankaj Tripathi and a wonderful Father-Daughter relationship. Even though this is more than what a lot of films offer, I really wished that this one had more.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl released on 12th August 2020 and is streaming on Netflix. Watch it here.