Available on: Netflix
In one of the defining moments in the film, when a young Gunjan aka Gunju (Riva Arora) is mocked by her brother because ladkiyan pilot thodi na bante hain, their father steps in to drive the conversation in the right direction and says, "Plane ladka udhaaye yaa ladki, dono ko pilot hi bolte hai."
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is the story of every girl out there who never loses her sight of her dreams while battling the toxic masculinity and age-old patriarchy existing in the society.
What's Yay: Performances, Story, Direction
What's Nay: Barring the Kargil war sequence in the climax, we never get to see any of Gunjan Saxena's combat missions which would have made the film even more impactful.
A young Gunjan Saxena (Riva Arora) is sky-struck when she steps in the cockpit for the first time while travelling on a flight. "Dada, mujhe pilot banna hain", she tells her elder brother who dismisses her ambition and tells her to become an air-hostess instead. Thankfully, Gunjan has a supportive father, Lieutenant Colonel Anup Saxena (Pankaj Tripathi) who understands her romance with planes.
After crossing several hurdles in her path, Gunjan shatters the glass ceiling and joins the Indian Air Force. But who says the journey is going to be easy? From being constantly denied flying hours to facing a bunch of men who cannot deal with a woman in their base, Gunjan battles several biases and soars high in the sky.
Sharan Sharma makes a promising directorial debut with Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. He has a tight hold on the directorial reins on this coming-of-age drama. While the film is a dramatized account of Gunjan Saxena, India's first female Air Force Officer to fly in a combat zone during the 1999 Kargil War, Sharma doesn't add unnecessary sub-plots to divert your attention from the purpose of the film. Not once does he resort to jingoism to show the patriotic streak in his characters and that deserves a brownie point.
On the flip side, most of the male characters in the film are uni-dimensional. The film tries too hard to make villains out of them and that's where Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl loses its control a bit. Also, a little more detailing in the story would have made it even more intriguing.
Janhvi Kapoor is still work-in-progress when it comes to her acting chops. While she excels in the scenes where she is a starry-eyed girl, the actress struggles to stay steady when it comes to the emotional scenes. However, her scenes with her on-screen father Pankaj Tripathi strike a chord.
Pankaj Tripathi exudes warmth right from the first frame. His portrayal of Gunjan Saxena's supportive father is on point. He is one of the reasons why your eyes stay glued to the screen. Watch out for his potentially confrontational scene between him and his son (Angad Bedi) when the latter objects to Gunjan being a pilot. The actor hits the ball straight out of the park for a six.
Angad Bedi as the casually sexist brother is perfectly in tune with what the script demands him to do. Vineet Kumar Raina pulls off an effective performance despite his one-note role. Manav Vij as the commanding officer who discovers the spark in Gunjan Saxena, is convincing.
R Dee's camerawork especially the aerial shots adds thrill to Janhvi Kapoor's Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. Aarif Sheikh's taut editing doesn't keep any loose strings to let your mind wander off.
'Aasmaan Di Pari', 'Dori Tutt Gaiyaan' and 'Mann Ki Dori' are our picks from the music album. Rekha Bhardwaj's uplights 'Dori Tutt Gaiyaan' with her sublime vocals. 'Mann Ki Dori' is pleasant to the ears.
"Jo log mehnat ka saath nahi chodte kismat kabhi unka saath nahi chodti," says Pankaj Tripathi's character to a dejected Gunjan Saxena, when the latter is almost on the verge of giving up on her dream. With its honest performances and stirring story, this Janhvi Kapoor-starrer has its heart in the right place. Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a fitting tribute to every 'Bharat Ki Beti' who dares to dream and fly high in the sky.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 for Janhvi Kapoor's Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.