The now retired Flight Lieutenant points out the factual errors in the Janhvi Kapoor-starrer biopic of her former Indian Air Force colleague Gunjan Saxena
By Our Correspondent
Dharma Productions’ Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl  has received mixed reviews. The film though has got flak from the Indian Air Force who found it to portray the prestigious institute in negative light. Among the debatable things in the film is the claim that Gunjan Saxena was the first woman pilot of IAF. As reported earlier, Saxena wasn’t alone as Kerala’s Sreevidya Rajan was the other woman pilot who also performed similar duties. Speaking exclusively to Beyond Bollywood earlier, Rajan had clarified that neither Saxena nor her were the first women pilot of IAF, but they were the first to be assigned duties in a war zone.
A week after the release of the film, Rajan has penned a long post on her facebook account, sharing her views on the film and clarifying that she was the first woman pilot to enter the war zone during the Kargil war while Saxena joined in a few days later.
“In the movie, Gunjan Saxena was shown as the only lady pilot to fly in Kargil operations. This is factually incorrect. We were posted together to Udhampur and when the Kargil conflict started, I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which deployed at Srinagar. I flew missions in the conflict area even before Gunjan’s arrival at Srinagar. After a few days of operation, Gunjan Saxena came to Srinagar with the next set of crew,’ wrote Rajan.
Rajan also added that heroics in the climax never really happened. She says, “We actively participated in all operations given to us which included casualty evacuation, supply drop, communication sorties, SAR, etc. The heroic acts of the protagonist portrayed in the climax never actually happened and may have been shown as part of cinematic licence.”
While she ruled out any gender bias in IAF, Rajan though did admit to facing issues from certain individuals.
“We were received with the usual preconceived notions and prejudices from a few colleagues. However, there were enough officers to support us. We were under strict scrutiny and certain mistakes of ours were met with corrective actions which may have been overlooked had it been done by our male counterparts. We had to work harder than our counterparts to prove ourselves to be at par with them. Some were not happy to share the professional space with us but the majority accepted and treated us as fellow officers working towards a common goal,” clarified Rajan.
The now retired IAF helicopter pilot also clarified that as opposed to the film, she was the other woman to have joined the Udhampur unit.
In the film there is no mention of Rajan, but in a particular scene during the training, Gunjan Saxena [played by Janhvi Kapoor] is pictured with another lady officer. Was that a reference to Sreevidya Rajan?
In the film, we see Saxena’s reporting officer Wing Commander Dileep Singh [Vineet Kumar Singh] regularly cancelling Saxena’s flying, however Rajan clarified that no such thing happened in real.
“Our flying began within a few days of our arrival and was never interrupted or cancelled for petty reasons as wrongly portrayed in the movie. The squadron commander was a thorough professional. He was a very strict and tough officer who took us to task whenever there was a mistake from our side, be it male or female. We never faced any humiliating physical strength demonstrations as shown in the movie. We were never ill-treated or humiliated by our fellow officers,” said the former IAF pilot.
Rajan didn’t demean Saxena but felt it were the film’s makers who twisted facts. She wrote, “Gunjan and I were posted together in two stations. Being her coursemate and a good friend, I believe that the filmmakers have twisted the facts given by Gunjan for the sake of publicity. She is a brilliant officer and a thorough professional. She had many achievements during her career which should have been portrayed to inspire the younger generation instead of showing her as a weak and oppressed victim in certain scenes.”
Rajan didn’t mince words is saying that the film was disrespectful towards IAF. “The movie is sending out a wrong message about the lady officers of IAF there by demeaning the prestigious organisation of our country,” said Rajan.
Read Rajan’s full post below.