'Gunjan Saxena' review: Moving portrayal, but Janhvi fails to impress
Some stories need to be told. There are no two ways about it. The only question is how, or rather, how well. Gunjan Saxena, the first woman Indian Air Force officer to go to war, is one such story. Sharan Sharma-directed Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, her biopic, is admittedly a low-key affair, but still, a moving portrayal of an important life. Here's our review.
Right from childhood, Gunjan Saxena (Janhvi Kapoor) has her eyes set at the skies. It's copters, and not dolls, that fascinate her. She would catch movies with sunglasses on because, of course, pilots can't risk their eye health. But she's perpetually grounded by her conservative brother Anshuman (Angad Bedi), who tells her that the best she could settle for is being a flight attendant.
But there's always someone to correct him—their supportive and progressive father, Anup Saxena (Pankaj Tripathi), also a retired Army officer. "If the plane doesn't care who's flying it, why do you?" he would ask his son, while offering an affirmative smile to Gunjan. Backed by his support and her own determination, Gunjan goes on to crack her tests and lands at Udhampur airbase.
But soon, Gunjan realizes there is a bigger price for her dreams. The first woman at the airbase, she is seen more as an alien than an officer. She is a misfit there, not because she doesn't fit, but because the system doesn't let her. In fact, there are no women washrooms, and the parties are filled with sexist men and similar songs.
Despite its slip-ups, Gunjan Saxena is an engrossing tale. By nature of its characters, you are invested in them from the beginning, and you find yourself rooting for their success. In fact, the scenes shared by Gunjan and her father feel utterly endearing and heartfelt. It is just the drama part of it that might feel a bit overdone, though.
While The Kargil Girl doesn't use the subtlest of manners to make its point, it does so nonetheless. Dialogues like, "Yeh jagah ladies ke liye hai hi nahi," may feel a bit too direct but they make you realize the weight of the problem- that we, as a society, haven't been too fair to our women.
In her heaviest role thus far, Janhvi Kapoor is sincere. But she fails to deliver the consistency that a role like Gunjan Saxena demands. Just like the copters she flies in the high skies, her energies fluctuate, between high and impressive to low and ineffective. And, that happens abruptly and a little too often.
In The Kargil Girl, the ever-brilliant Pankaj Tripathi plays the father that every girl dreams of. With his signature effortless and conversational style, Tripathi lights up the screen each time he gets the chance to do so. He lends this film the much-needed heart and reliability. There couldn't possibly have been a better pick for the role.
Sure, The Kargil Girl comes with its problems and a mixed set of performances, it still is inspiring and pertinent. Above all, it is a step in the right direction. Because, in times of "Bois Locker Room," God knows how many more Gunjan Saxena(s) we would need to shift the narrative, if at all that's possible. Rating: 3/5 stars.