A biopic on India’s first female Shaurya Chakra recipient, Kargil war veteran and Indian Air Force officer, would naturally be a story of incredible valour. And so the expectation among movie lovers is definitely something like an interesting thing to watch it for. However due to the present scenario of insider-outsider and also some may have a doubt on casting process, the movie probably loses some of its viewers. But I would like to mention here a point that before passing any judgement or going by any decision, one should watch a movie (if it sounds interesting) with an open mind by keeping everything aside. Now let us see how well this movie has succeeded the expectation by considering every aspect of our audience.
Gunjan Saxena’s (Janhvi Kapoor) obsession with aeroplanes started when she sees its cockpit as a kid. The decade is of the 90s and she faces opposition from every side for her decisions to be a pilot. Everyone apart from her father (Pankaj Tripathi) is against her but her passion for flying planes boosts her undying wish of years.
She faces many obstacles in her way of being a pilot and the story is all about how she clears them. How she pivots her dream from being just a pilot to join the air-force. How she’s the only girl of her batch facing an army of men and the disparity. How she’s allotted one of the most important missions – Kargil War and much more.
Two wars unfold in Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl. The one on the India-Pakistan border leads the film to its climax; the other rages on the gender divide frontline practically all the way through. Both push the titular heroine to the brink as she fights to find her feet in a male preserve. But she hangs in there, propelled by her willpower and a father who helps her keep the headwinds at bay.
Screenplay and Direction
Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl, a Netflix original film scripted by Dangal co-writer Nikhil Mehrotra and directed by debutant Sharan Sharma, is definitely one of the better true stories to emerge from excess-prone Bollywood. Its take-offs are smooth and its landings steady. The man behind movies like Dangal and Chichhore (missed the mark with Panga), Nikhil yet again proves what a good script can do to a film. Teaming up with director Sharan Sharma, Nikhil fixes most of the errors that Bollywood has messed up with biopics.
Nikhil Mehrotra and Sharan Sharma’s screenplay is watertight. Keeping the length under 2 hours (WOW!), Nikhil manages to keep everything in exact proportion. However, the story has a lot of potential and the need of the hour. On the other side, the focus is not just on narrating Gunjan’s life story but also on ensuring that the entertainment quotient is maintained. They also keep the narrative very simple and hence it’ll be easy to comprehend for anyone who watches it.
On the flipside, the war scenes in the last 20 minutes could have been more thrilling and terrifying for a better impact. Also, Sharan fails to extract the desired performance from Janhvi Kapoor.
Music and Other Technicalities
Amit Trivedi’s music is fine but mostly situational. There are 6 songs in the film but are well woven into the narrative. John Stewart Eduri’s background score elevates impact.
Manush Nandan’s camera aptly captures the tension, emotions and thrills. Stunt coordinator Marc Wolff (Mission Impossible) makes sure to keep the action profound and non-gory, which is a good (for CBFC) and a bad (for the lack of authenticity) thing. Aditya Kanwar’s production design is rich. Samidha Wangnoo’s costumes are very realistic. Vikram Dahiya’s action is subtle and not gory at all.
Nikhil Mehrotra and Sharan Sharma’s dialogues (additional dialogues by Hussain Dalal) elevate the impact and also the humour to another level. Again, the balance is maintained – the dialogues never turn too filmy. Nitin Baid’s editing is top-notch as so much has been packed in 112 minutes and yet, it doesn’t seem like a rushed job.
It however takes the exceptionally gifted actor Pankaj Tripathi next to no time to sink his teeth into the role and dispel any misgivings the audience might have regarding his suitability for the role. Tripathi’s natural, low-key, conversational tone, which he sustains all through the film, serves as the spine of the drama. He would be loved for his role of a supporting father – every girl would wish for a father like him. He is the sounding board for Janhvi Kapoor, who at times struggles to find the right median.
Janhvi Kapoor delivers a fine performance and one can sense that she has given her best, physically and emotionally, to the film. But she doesn’t have a range of expressions which would have elevated her performance and also the film. The screenplay demands too much from her by way of emotive range. On the positive, Kapoor gives a quiet and modest performance. For a two-film-old actress, she shows incredible maturity and intuitiveness.
Angad Bedi, Vineet Kumar Singh (in a special appearance) and Manav Vij are perfectly in tune with the low-throttle film. Ayesha Raza Mishra is terrific as the mother who frets over her daughter’s choices but is acutely aware of the cost of frittering away opportunities. Wish the film had room for more of her.
Gunjan Saxena makes for an essential watch for reasons that go beyond story or its telling. With respect to its screenplay and story handling, the film comes close to the definition of a ‘perfect biopic’ in Bollywood. It is a well-narrated tale of a female war hero of India.