Gunjan Saxena's batchmate says Dharma Productions distorted facts
Retired Flight Lieutenant Sreevidya Rajan has accused the makers of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, a biopic on former Indian Air Force officer Gunjan Saxena, of distorting facts and portraying the IAF in a negative light. Her comments have come just days after the IAF slammed the movie for wrongful portrayal of its work culture and treatment towards women. Here are more details.
Produced by Karan Johar and starring Janhvi Kapoor, The Kargil Girl is inspired from the life of Shaurya Chakra award recipient and former IAF officer Gunjan Saxena. Saxena scripted history when she and Sreevidya Rajan became the first-ever Indian women in combat. The two pilots flew Cheetah helicopters for casualty evacuation and reconnaissance during the 1999 Kargil War, fought between India and Pakistan.
In a Facebook post, Rajan clarified that contrary to what is shown in the movie, Saxena was not the only lady officer posted at the Udhampur airbase in 1996. She was also posted there at the time. "We are course mates and had undergone our training together...but in the movie, it was shown that she was the only lady pilot posted at the unit."
Further, Rajan said that while they were subjected to discrimination by a handful of officers, the others had supported them, adding that there was no bias at the organizational level. She asserted that their training began shortly after their arrival at the airbase and was not interrupted or canceled for petty reasons, which the movie has wrongfully portrayed.
"We had to work harder than our (male) counterparts to prove ourselves to be at par with them. Some were not happy to share professional space with us but the majority accepted and treated us as fellow officers working towards a common goal," Rajan wrote.
Rajan went on to add that Saxena was not the only Indian lady pilot serving in the Kargil War. In fact, she was sent there first, and Saxena joined her later, she revealed. "This is factually incorrect," she said, citing the movie's depiction of events. She also added that the "heroic acts" shown towards the movie's end never actually took place.
"I believe that the filmmakers have twisted the facts given by Saxena for the sake of publicity. She is a brilliant officer and a thorough professional," Rajan said, also adding that Saxena should have ensured the facts were not distorted in her biopic.
Not long ago, the Indian Air Force wrote a letter to the Censor Board, thereby objecting to its negative portrayal in the said biopic. In its letter, also sent to Johar's Dharma Productions and streaming company Netflix, IAF said the movie portrays the organization in "undue negative light." The force has demanded removal or modification of the scenes and dialogues that it considered objectionable.
"In the aim to glorify the screen character of Ex-Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena, M/s Dharma Productions presented some situations that are misleading and portray an inappropriate work culture especially against women in the IAF," the force said in the letter.
Reacting to the controversy, Saxena said that she had faced discrimination "at the hands of a few individuals," adding that to deny it would be wrong. "To deny it completely speaks of a feudal mindset and undermines grit of women officers," she wrote in a blog post. She also said she or the filmmakers never intended to insult the IAF through the movie.
"IAF is too big and too respectable a force to even be scratched by the (ongoing) controversy. The IAF as an organization is not into institutional discrimination, be it on gender or anything. I can speak for myself," she wrote in her blog.
Prior to the fresh controversy, the film's lead star Janhvi Kapoor and producer Karan Johar were already a subject of online hatred and trolling. This is due to the reignited debate about nepotism and favoritism in Hindi film industry in the aftermath of tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. In fact, Johar's name was also missing from the Gunjan Saxena trailer.