Tag Archives: Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl

Movie Review: Gunjan Saxena — The Kargil Girl (2020)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Gunjan Saxena on Netflix

Gunjan Saxena didn’t set out to be the Indian Air Force’s first woman combat pilot. She just wanted to fly. While the movie based on her life — Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl — shows some of the key events in her pathbreaking career, it focuses more on how her extraordinary willpower and the support of her devoted father helped her make history.

Gunjan grew up in the 1980s wanting to be a pilot. A clever song sequence shows young Gunjan (played by cute Riva Arora) wearing aviator sunglasses and playing with toy planes to the tune of “Mann Ki Dori.” Lyrics like, “From the moment I saw you, I just can’t get you out of my head,” describe first love, but it’s love between a girl and an airplane.

Her father, Anup (Pankaj Tripathi), believes his daughter can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. He’s determined to help her, even over the objections of Gunjan’s mother Kirti (Ayesha Raza Mishra) and Gunjan’s older brother Anshuman (played by Aaryan Arora as a kid and Angad Bedi as an adult.) Mom and brother claim to want to save Gunjan from heartbreak in a world that limits the options for girls and women, but their attitudes just reinforce those limitations.

As she grows up, Gunjan (played as an adult by Janhvi Kapoor) proves herself an overachiever, topping her classes and doing whatever is required to reach her goal. Joining the Air Force’s first class of women pilots turns out to be the quickest way for her to get in the air. When Gunjan fails the Air Force fitness exam by being seven kilograms overweight, she and Anup train using a diet and exercise routine movie superstar Rekha mentioned in a magazine.

The relationship between father and daughter is the heart of Gunjan Saxena. First-time writer-director Sharan Sharma took the advice of his co-writer Nikhil Mehrotra, who previously wrote great family-oriented films like Dangal, Panga, and Chhichhore. Sharma told First Post that, given the volume of excellent source material, “the biggest difficulty in a film of this nature is deciding what should not go into it.” Given how delightful Tripathi and Kapoor are together, focusing the story on their bond was clearly the right move.

Gunjan Saxena is only Kapoor’s third lead role, and she proves herself completely capable of carrying a feature film. She makes it looks easy, whether the challenges facing Gunjan are physical or emotional.

Whatever Anshuman’s motivations were for warning Gunjan against being a pilot, he was right that not everyone would be pleased about her choice. She realizes that after she becomes the first woman at her assigned Air Force base. From petty annoyances like not having a dedicated restroom to outright hostility from some of her fellow soldiers, she faces the extent to which some men will go to exclude women from certain spaces. A scene in which Gunjan’s commanding officer Dileep Singh (Viineet Kumar) finally tells her why he doesn’t think she belongs is heartbreaking. Kapoor handles the scene with grace and finesse.

The film’s action sequences when Gunjan is called into service during the Kargil War are well-executed and thrilling. The cinematic license Sharma takes with events ramps up the excitement and emotional resonance.

There’s a lovely scene in which Gunjan discusses the meaning of patriotism with her father, asking whether the desire to fly is sufficient reason to join the Air Force. Anup — a career military man himself — replies that patriotism isn’t measured by who shouts slogans the loudest, but by whether one does their duty to the best of their ability. It’s a fitting way to distill the real Gunjan Saxena’s approach to her life and a fine way to describe Janhvi Kapoor’s portrayal of her.

Links

Streaming Video News: August 14, 2020

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, a new biopic starring Janhvi Kapoor as the first woman to fly in combat for the Indian Air Force. An uplifting film to catch while you can is 2015’s Dhanak, which expires from Netflix on August 20. Two siblings trek across Rajasthan on foot hoping to find Shah Rukh Khan, who they believe can cure the little boy’s blindness. It’s really, really good.

Netflix also released the trailer for the new Original series Masaba Masaba, a fictionalized version of the life of fashion designer Masaba Gupta (daughter of actress Neena Gupta). Both Gupta women star in the series, and the trailer highlights a few celebrity guest cameos.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian films added in the last week, including a bunch of Hindi titles from Reliance Entertainment and Shemaroo Entertainment. Here are the ones I’ve reviewed:

If you watch any of these movies, make it Love Story 2050. The vision for the future laid out in this sci-fi flick Priyanka Chopra wishes we’d all forget is hilarious in the worst possible ways. I’d have to re-watch it to be sure, but it might qualify as “so bad, it’s good.”

Vidyut Jammwal’s new action flick Khuda Haafiz debuted on Hotstar today. The streamer also unveiled the trailer for Sanjay Dutt’s Sadak 2, which premieres on August 28.

Streaming Video News: July 16, 2020

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with info from today’s big announcement about the streaming service’s slate of upcoming Indian movies and TV series. In addition to five new series, Netflix announced five Original films that were already in the works and seven movies that have chosen not to wait for theaters to reopen (whenever that may be). Netflix’s press release has details about the new additions, all of which are in Hindi or English. The only one with a release date so far is the previously announced Gunjan Saxena, which debuts on Netflix on August 12.

For me, the highlights are Ludo (which stars Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Aditya Roy Kapur, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, and Pankaj Tripathi), Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar), Aurangzeb director Atul Sabharwal’s Class of ’83, and Vikramaditya Motwane’s AK vs AK — shorthand for Anil Kapoor vs Anurag Kashyap.

New movies coming to Netflix

New series coming to Netflix

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with more than 20 Indian titles added in the last week, including today’s global debut of the Kannada film Law.

Hotstar dropped the trailer for Lootcase, which launches on the service on July 31.

Streaming Video News: June 11, 2020

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s global premiere of the new Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana comedy Gulabo Sitabo (also available in 4K UHD) — the first major Hindi film to skip theaters and release straight to digital. Amazon added dozens of other Indian titles in the last week, including the 2020 Telugu movie Pressure Cooker.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s addition of the 2019 Hindi film Axone. Netflix made two big announcements this week: first, a June 24 release date for Bulbbul, a creepy looking Netflix Original movie from Anushka Sharma’s production house. Second, it announced that the military biopic Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl will release straight to Netflix rather than release theatrically. No official premiere date was given.

[Disclaimer: all of my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]