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Zee Studios and Dharma Productions’ Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a biopic on Gunjan Saxena, the first lady pilot of the Indian Air Force. It is as much the story of chasing one’s dreams as it is of grit and determination and of love for the motherland.

Gunjan Saxena (Janhvi Kapoor) has an ardent desire to become a pilot. Her army officer-brother, Anshuman Saxena (Angad Bedi), doesn’t take her seriously when she tells him about her dream, and her mother, Kirti Saxena (Ayesha Raza Mishra), is shocked by her choice of profession. But despite the lack of encouragement from other family members, Gunjan’s father, Anup Saxena (Pankaj Tripathi), helps her realise her dream because, as he says, whether the pilot is a boy or a girl, he/she is referred to as a pilot, nothing else. However, even the part-family opposition is nothing as compared to the obstacles Gunjan faces when studying and training to become a pilot and then even after she qualifies as a pilot. Her colleagues in the male-dominated profession don’t take too kindly to what they consider as intrusion in male territory. Flight commander Dileep Singh (Vineet Kumar Singh) and his pilots make life rather difficult for Gunjan during her training period. Who helps Gunjan Saxena?

Suddenly, one day, Gunjan is asked to report at the Srinagar air force station during the Kargil war. How she makes a heroic mark at the Srinagar air force base forms the crux of the story.

The film is based on a true-life character and Gunjan Saxena’s story has a lot of drama, family emotions, tension-ridden moments and the patriotic flavour. The story is beautifully written by Nikhil Mehrotra and Sharan Sharma. The duo’s screenplay is fantastic and is packed with emotions for all age groups and all classes of audiences. There is not a single scene which is out of place and this makes the drama fast-paced and racy. Scenes which stand out are those between Gunjan and her father, the one in which a frustrated and dejected Gunjan gives a piece of her mind to flight commander Dileep Singh and his pilots, the nail-biting climax sequence, and two scenes after the climax — one, between Gunjan and Dileep Singh, and the other, between Gunjan and her brother. The best part of the screenplay is that it juxtaposes family emotions beautifully with patriotism. There are a couple of scenes in which the viewers would feel a lump in the throat; the climax will make many in the audience cry. All in all, the writers deserve distinction marks for a script excellently penned. The duo’s dialogues, with additional dialogues by Hussain Dalal, are extraordinary. They touch the heart at a lot of places. For instance, the dialogue in which the examiner breaks the news of Gunjan’s selection to her father is a gem. Likewise, the dialogue of Anshuman to sister Gunjan after the climax is superb. A lot of dialogues are packed with emotions.

Janhvi Kapoor lives the role of Gunjan Saxena. She plays the character so diligently and sincerely that it’s sheer delight to watch her perform. Her acting will win Janhvi a lot of praise. Pankaj Tripathi is superb as Gunjan’s father, Anup Saxena. He is a reservoir of talent and the viewer can just keep on admiring this actor. His body language, his expressions, and his dialogue delivery are all outstanding. But even his silence often speaks a lot. Ayesha Raza Mishra is grace personified in the role of Gunjan’s mother. Angad Bedi is good as Anshuman Saxena. Vineet Kumar Singh (in a special appearance) shines as flight commander Dileep Singh. He acts with all the conviction at his command. Manav Vij makes a superb impact as commanding officer Gautam Sinha. Akash Dhar leaves a lovely mark as pilot Shekhar. Dishant Gulliya (as pilot Sandhu), Ashish Bhatt (as pilot Viru), Yogendra Singh (as pilot Montu), and Tejdeep Gill (as pilot Harry) lend very good support. Rajesh Balwani makes his presence felt in the entertaining role of the clerk at the Delhi Flying School. Gulshan Pandey (as the chief operating officer at the Srinagar air force station) and Varun Rastogi (as the ATC officer at the Srinagar base) provide decent support. Master Aryan Arora (as young Anshuman) and baby Riva Arora (as young Gunjan) are impressive. Som Ganguly is effective as the adjutant officer. Others lend decent support.

Sharan Sharma makes a fantastic debut as director. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he has made an almost flawless film, packing it with all the ingredients of a commercial entertainer. The juxtapositioning of family emotions with patriotism is lovely. Amit Trivedi’s music is fair but the absence of hit and popular music is sorely felt. There is not a single number which can be hummed and enjoyed as a stand-alone song. Kausar Munir’s lyrics are weighty. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is phenomenal and heightens the impact of the scenes. Manush Nandan’s cinematography is outstanding. The aerial photography deserves special mention. Vikram Dahiya’s action scenes are wonderful. The stunts and aerial coordination by Marc Wolff are extraordinary. Aditya Kanwar’s production designing, and Vilas Panchal’s art direction deserve distinction marks. Nitin Baid’s editing is super-sharp.

On the whole, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is a box-office winner, a hit! It would have shone at the box-office, had it been premiered in the cinemas. On the Netflix streaming platform too, it will win plaudits for its script, direction and performances. Patriotism and family emotions will be its scoring points.

It will release on 12-8-’20 on Netflix.