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Gunjan Saxena’s coursemate Sreevidya Rajan: Filmmakers have twisted facts for sake of publicity

Janhvi Kapoor starrer Netflix film - Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is facing trouble with the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has raised objections and written a letter to the Censor Board objecting to its "undue negative" portrayal in the biopic.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi | August 18, 2020 9:58:53 am
gunjan saxena film janhvi kapoorThe IAF has objected to some portions in Netflix film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.

Former Indian Air Force pilot Sreevidya Rajan, who was posted with Gunjan Saxena at the IAF base in Udhampur, has said the makers of Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl ‘have twisted the facts given by Gunjan for the sake of publicity.’ She added that it was actually her and not Gunjan who was the first lady pilot to fly in Kargil.

Rajan took to her Facebook account and wrote a long post reminiscing life at the IAF Udhampur base. She mentioned the trouble they faced due to “no separate toilet facilities and changing rooms for ladies in the unit” and “preconceived notions and prejudices from a few colleagues.”

However, Sreevidya Rajan said that a majority of male officers accepted them with respect, and their flying was “never interrupted or cancelled for petty reasons as wrongly portrayed in the movie”

Read: Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl review

“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… The movie is sending out a wrong message about the lady officers of IAF there by demeaning the prestigious organisation of our country,” a part of Rajan’s post read.

Read Sreevidya Rajan’s full post on Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl here:

Dharma productions latest movie,” Gunjan Saxena the Kargil girl” has attracted a lot of mixed views from our fellow officers and friends. As the only other lady officer posted at Udhampur along with Gunjan Saxena and having gone through the ups and downs of the journey, now I would like to put forward my views.

We are course mates and had undergone our training together in AFA and HTS. Both of us were posted to Udhampur in 1996 but in the movie, it was shown that she was the only lady pilot posted at the unit. Since the two of us were the first lady pilots to be posted to that helicopter unit, we were skeptical about our acceptance in the male-dominated niche area of flying. 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.

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.
As shown in the movie, there were no separate toilet facilities and changing rooms for ladies in the unit. After initial difficulties, we shared the limited resources with our fellow officers and they always accommodated and helped us whenever it was needed.

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. 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.

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. . As the pioneers of women pilots, we were treated with utmost respect and it was our responsibility to live up to the expectations and pave way for future generations. The movie is sending out a wrong message about the lady officers of IAF there by demeaning the prestigious organisation of our country.

I only wish that since it is a Biopic, Gunjan should have made sure to show the facts and portray IAF in a positive light before giving her approval to air the movie.

Though I was the first lady pilot to fly in Kargil, I never claimed it in any forum before this due to my strong belief in gender equality. In Kargil operations, male pilots had flown extensively and faced more hardships than us. But they never got or sought any publicity. We probably were given this fame because of our gender which I do not support. In defence services, there is no disparity between male or female. We are all officers in uniform.

gunjan saxena iaf controversy Janhvi Kapoor in one of the scenes from Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl which was objected to by the IAF.

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, which released on Netflix last week, is facing trouble with the IAF which has raised objections and written a letter to the Censor Board objecting to the “undue negative” portrayal of the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces in the biopic.

In a blog post written for NDTV on Monday, Gunjan Saxena shared that she personally never faced any kind of bias at IAF. She, however, added that “since the bias is not at an organizational level, the experiences of different woman officers would be different. To deny it completely speaks of a feudal mindset and undermines the grit of women officers.”

Read: Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl actor Angad Bedi: Anshuman is flawed, but realistic

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl has been directed by Sharan Sharma. Produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, the film also stars Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Ayesha Raza Mishra.

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