Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is essentially a Bollywood film with a feel-good factor that perhaps a younger audience will get the most out of.
Gunjan: Saxena: The Kargil Girl is an inspiring tale of Gunjan Saxena, who decides, as a young girl on a commercial flight, that she wants to be a pilot. Her decision leads her to be the first female pilot in combat in the Indian Air Force.
Essentially a biopic, the story starts with a war scene, then introduces us to our lead, then flashbacks 15 years to her formative years struggling with the usual teenage dramas. There is pushback from her family and friends, but it only makes her more determined.
Director Sharan Sharma uses plenty of tried and true conventions to tell this story. There is an opening scene that shows Gunjam running, in slow motion, to her helicopter, so we pretty much know that the goal being aspired to is achieved, so what’s left is the journey of our central character.
Perhaps with less foreshadowing, an audience with no prior information about the outcome may have enjoyed the narrative a bit more. It may have missed a trick here, creating at least some tension about the fate of our protagonist.
However, the journey is often better than the destination, and it seems the filmmakers here focussed more on the characters and their development as opposed to an accurate depiction of the events that occurred.
Along with the family drama, we are witness to an Air Force training montage, complete with assault course, and angry teacher showdowns.
Gunjan is the only one to pass the entrance exams; in fact, it is all super easy and barely an inconvenience for her, but medically she needs a little work, so another montage ensues, with Gunjan embarking on a weight loss and training program, complete with a musical number playing over the whole thing.
Weight taken care of, the height restriction seems to iron itself out just as easily, so Gunjan is accepted and selected for her training.
It’s this light tone and lack of consequence though that detracts a little from what feels should have been a more impactful story.
Gunjan is played by Janhvi Kapoor, but it is a performance that lacks any real spark and spirit, something the character needed a lot more of.
I feel at the heart of the story of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a much stronger message, but this production seems to miss the mark in several aspects.
In a pivotal scene, where Gunjan questions her ambitions and her goals with her father, it is addressed with sincerity, but it is so scripted it feels more like a sitcom moment rather than an introspective look at patriotism and values.
Another training montage ensues, yep another, complete with another Bollywood backing track, as Gunjam goes through her Air Force training.
Being the only girl on the team also brings its fair share of problems in the barracks — no ladies’ toilets and changing rooms seems a real drawback and the first real obstacle for Gunjan. Socially too, things are tense, and no one seems to want to fly with Gunjan, canceling flights and ostracising her from the rest of the cadets, but once again, there is never any doubt that Gunjan perseveres.
Like I mentioned before, every beat that you would expect to find is here, not just once, but over and over, making the drama less relevant, instead focussing on an almost Disney style look at the subject matter.
By the third act, I felt a little worn out by the soundtrack and the tropes.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl finishes as it starts, with an action sequence, and although everything looks good, there was perhaps a chance here to present a grittier version of the story. However, this is essentially a Bollywood film with a feel-good factor that perhaps a younger audience will enjoy more than I did.