“Aaj kal ‘Sarkai Lo Khatia’ gaana, jo Raja Babu film se hai, kaafi vivaadon mein hai”
….and with this demonstration of general knowledge when it comes to the current affairs of the country, a young girl manages to make it to the short list of one of the first women helicopter pilots at the IAF.
Did this indeed happen? Or may be not! However, first time director Sharan Sharma plays a master stroke by bringing in a few funny and naughty elements come into play as well in the narrative of Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl, especially in the first half in order to give it an entertainer feel, lest it turns out to be a serious documentary.
What further makes the Karan Johar production further entertaining are the action sequences where choppers navigate through some rough terrains of Georgia (substituting for Kashmir in the film). There is a definite big screen appeal that these sequences get and rest assured had the movie arrived in theatres, these sequences would have lent an even greater impact.
There is good impact that the central protagonist of the film, Janhvi Kapoor, makes though right from the first to the last scene of the film. She owns the film and pretty much lives and breathes it right though its rather restricted run time of mere 100 odd minutes. As a 15 year old girl who awkwardly dances to the tune of ‘One 2 ka 4’ in front of dozens of guests and then wonders in amazement around her future ahead a few years down the line with the song ‘Sajanji Ghar Aaye’ playing around her, she goes through this whole transition rather organically.
The good part about the film is that it never becomes overbearing. Even though you see the girl battling her own family (mother, brother) to live her dream, then face challenges in getting her pre-academics right before getting a chance to enrol, to going through physical stress in order to clear her exams, to then eventually being surprised by some temporary and permanent disabilities as well (before the ‘Rekha diet’ comes to her rescue – check the film to find more), Janhvi lives and breathes the part. So much so that you never really separate her from the real Gunjan Saxena. Now that’s indeed a very good show from her as an actress.
Another actor who could well be a textbook in living and breathing the part is of course Pankaj Tripathi. Yes, his trademark mannerisms are well in place which you evidence right from Newton to Mirzapur to Stree to Gunjan Saxena. However, in the forefront through there is a Lt. Col. of the Army who still wonders about whether he should indeed strike a personal conversation with his army man son (Angad Bedi, in a role which is a reversal of the one he played in Soorma) over a round of drinks or politely take that very glass away from him before seeing him off with a goodnight.
It is these very small moments that make Gunjan Saxena a big film. The trials and tribulations are all there but not overwhelming. The sexist discrimination (courtesy Janhvi’s senior Vineet Kumar Singh, in a very self assured part) are all there but not on-your-face demeaning. The patriotism is all there but not the kind where one has to scream ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. The heroism is all there but then not the kind where you land your chopper anywhere with eyes closed. In all, it is all balanced, something that makes Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl a very entertaining as well as informative affair.
While the film indeed has an exciting story to tell, it also establishes loud and clear that as an actress, Janhvi Kapoor now has two films in her repertoire (the other being Dhadak) that she would be proud of, and that there would be more on the anvil.