Biopic Gunjan Saxena Triggers Storm As Bollywood Did Kashmir To IAF

SRINAGAR: In most of the films that Bollywood did in the last 30 years on Kashmir, there may hardly be one or two that people can relate with. The tinsel town is using a story of its choice and linking it with Kashmir to make money and all that has been fuelling the warmongering and hate.

The Real and Unreal: Gunjan Saxena (L) the former IAF pilot with Jhanvi Kapoor, who plays her role in the biopic that has landed the producers into controversy.

The critics have been saying this for all these years. But the money-minting in Bollywood has masala emphasis and the story hardly matters. The producers have been countering the criticism that they are generating a nationalistic narrative.

Now ripples are visible over the recent Karan Johar biopic Gunjan Saxena — The Kargil Girl that was released on Netflix. A female pilot has asserted that while she was the first to get into the war theatre, the filmmakers have avoided mentioning it and have portrayed the IAF negatively. Interestingly, the film has led the two pilots “fight” virtually over the storyline.

Love @ LoC

“Sreevidya Rajan says she stands by her claim, Gunjan Saxena has retorted back “won’t let anyone take away my achievements”,” the Chandigarh based newspaper The Tribune reported. “The IAF is, so far, silent on the controversy of who was ‘first’ to enter the battle zone.”

The biopic is presumably based on the Kargil war that took place in 1999 summer. Jhanvi Kapoor plays Gunjan Saxena in the film. The film shot in Lucknow is about the ambitions of Saxena. But most part of it is about the Kargil battle. It shows Gunjan on a mission with another helicopter that is hit. The pilot rescue soldiers and her colleague and touches base safely.

This is what Sreevidya Rajan wrote on her Facebook wall on Monday. She is a retired pilot now.

“Dharma productions latest movie,”Gunjan Saxena the Kargil girl” has attracted a lot of mixed views from our fellow officers and friends. As the only other lady officer posted at Udhampur along with Gunjan Saxena and having gone through the ups and downs of the journey, now I would like to put forward my views.

We are course mates and had undergone our training together in AFA and HTS. Both of us were posted to Udhampur in 1996 but in the movie, it was shown that she was the only lady pilot posted at the unit. Since the two of us were the first lady pilots to be posted to that helicopter unit, we were skeptical about our acceptance in the male-dominated niche area of flying. We were received with the usual preconceived notions and prejudices from a few colleagues. However, there were enough officers to support us. We were under strict scrutiny and certain mistakes of ours were met with corrective actions which may have been overlooked had it been done by our male counterparts. We had to work harder than our counterparts to prove ourselves to be at par with them. Some were not happy to share the professional space with us but the majority accepted and treated us as fellow officers working towards a common goal.

Our flying began within a few days of our arrival and was never interrupted or cancelled for petty reasons as wrongly portrayed in the movie. The squadron commander was a thorough professional. He was a very strict and tough officer who took us to task whenever there was a mistake from our side, be it male or female. We never faced any humiliating physical strength demonstrations as shown in the movie. We were never ill-treated or humiliated by our fellow officers.

As shown in the movie, there were no separate toilet facilities and changing rooms for ladies in the unit. After initial difficulties, we shared the limited resources with our fellow officers and they always accommodated and helped us whenever it was needed.

An undated photographer on social media showing Gujan Saxena and Sreevidya Rajan in their IAF uniforms as flight lieutenants. They were course-mates and both participated in Kargill war., Now the film has led them to respond publicly on the real story.

In the movie, Gunjan Saxena was shown as the only lady pilot to fly in Kargil operations. This is factually incorrect. We were posted together to Udhampur and when the Kargil conflict started, I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which deployed at Srinagar. I flew missions in the conflict area even before Gunjan’s arrival at Srinagar. After a few days of operation, Gunjan Saxena came to Srinagar with the next set of crew. We actively participated in all operations given to us which included casualty evacuation, supply drop, communication sorties, SAR, etc. The heroic acts of the protagonist portrayed in the climax never actually happened and may have been shown as part of cinematic licence.

Gunjan and I were posted together in two stations. Being her coursemate and a good friend, I believe that the filmmakers have twisted the facts given by Gunjan for the sake of publicity. She is a brilliant officer and a thorough professional. She had many achievements during her career which should have been portrayed to inspire the younger generation instead of showing her as a weak and oppressed victim in certain scenes. . As the pioneers of women pilots, we were treated with utmost respect and it was our responsibility to live up to the expectations and pave way for future generations. The movie is sending out a wrong message about the lady officers of IAF there by demeaning the prestigious organisation of our country.

I only wish that since it is a Biopic, Gunjan should have made sure to show the facts and portray IAF in a positive light before giving her approval to air the movie.

Though I was the first lady pilot to fly in Kargil, I never claimed it in any forum before this due to my strong belief in gender equality. In Kargil operations, male pilots had flown extensively and faced more hardships than us. But they never got or sought any publicity. We probably were given this fame because of our gender which I do not support. In defence services, there is no disparity between male or female. We are all officers in uniform.”

Insisting that she stand by what she has written, Ms Rajan told the newspaper: “I had thought this was a movie about Gunjan Saxena’s life. Now after seeing the movie and how it has presented the IAF in poor light, I spoke up as I was the other women officer present there.”

Saxena, wrote a blog post in response saying “I was the first woman to fly in a combat zone…”, insisting that the story is an open challenge to anybody who refutes these facts.

Kaafir In Dukh Darya

The veterans from the armed forces have joined the debate. “In the film, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, the ‘reel hero’, on the direction of the filmmakers, tarnishes the image of the Indian Air Force through the inappropriate portrayal of the IAF’s work culture, which according to them is against women,” Suryakant Chafekar wrote in an opinion in The Print website. “I have operated extensively in the Kargil region and was also involved in a life-threatening incident at Kargil in 2002. So, I know what it takes to operate in such a region. I was involved in the induction of the first batch of women officers in IAF to ground duty branches in 1991. Thereafter, as a flying instructor, I trained the first batch of women IAF transport pilots.”

Identifying the “lies”, the former pilot said that in Govind Nihlani’s 1982 film, Vijeta, this role of the pilots was aptly depicted. “However, Karan Johar and his director have added the masala of gender bias even in this depiction.” He adds: “The Karan Johar-produced film tries to create sensation by projecting the IAF as an organisation that discriminates against women pilots. Johar probably does not know that the IAF was the first defence organisation in India to induct women officers in all branches and that the force constitutes 14 per cent women officers, comparable to any western country.”

That Televised War

Kangana Ranauat even termed the film anti-national and sugseted the government to take honour back from Karan Jouhar.

After the film was released on the Netflix, the Indian Air Force has reportedly written a letter to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over the alleged “undue negative portrayal” of the IAF personnel.

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