GUNJAN SAXENA, PATRIOT AND PATRIARCHY
“Plane Ladka Udaye ya Larki, Dono Ko Pilot Hi Bolte Hai.” – Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Around the world, women entering any field and taking command raises eyebrows while later a big achievement that many organisations boasts of it as well, especially in India, from women in politics to women bikers on-road and in this case, a woman in Indian Air Force for the very first time, Gunjan Saxena.
India’s first Woman Air Force Officer who was also the only female who was a part Kargil war of 1999, Gunjan’s story is depicted in Gunjan Saxena, The Kargil Girl, a biographical film which was released on Netflix, an OTT platform on 11th August 2020, decades later after she fought in a war for her country at the age of 24.
Ahead of Indian Independence Day (15th August 2020) while the country fights with coronavirus and theatres are closed, the movie delivers to the audience the expected boost of patriotic emotions while touching on the issues women face, the role of parent and chauvinism that still exist in the fields that are ‘not made for women’.
Flying in face of patriarchy, Gunjan’s story has many facets, from passion to merely become a pilot to becoming Air Force officer, her journey from a young age to 24 years when she served her country, say that the story or at least its parts can resonate with many women in India decades ago and today. It can be your grandmother, your aunt, your mother, or you who have experienced what Gunjan did at her home and workplace.
While the mother (played by Ayesha Raza Mishra) and brother (played by Angad Bedi) fears how a girl will join the army, the father (played by Pankaj Tripathi) splendidly portrays how a father instils courage not fear in her daughter’s mind as he sends her to fight for the nation.
LESSONS TO TAKE AWAY FROM GUNJAN SAXENA, THE KARGIL GIRL, 2020
Here are some of the various lessons from the movie, Gunjan Saxena, that young women entrepreneurs, professionals and their parents can learn:
“Agar Tum Apne Kaam Mein Imaandar Ho, Toh Desh Se Gaddari Kar Hi Nahi Sakte.”- Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Well, as mentioned and even seen in the trailer (for those who have not seen the movie yet), well, it was well-emphasised that Gunjan had only one dream growing up i.e. to become a pilot. But when her dream was unfulfilled, a newspaper ad asking women to become a part of the IAF for the first time changed her life.
The point here is Gunjan wanted to merely fly an aircraft, not to join the army, so in such a situation, a dialogue with her father, who said ‘being truthful to your work will ensure that you will not be unfaithful to your country’ puts things into perspective.
Well, I believe, everyone has heard this line from their parents not exactly about joining the army but about being faithful to their work. It is indeed an essential life lesson.
“Dus Air Force Officers aur Ek Ladki” – Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
A statement made by Gunjan’s casually sexist brother showed his sister a picture of ’11’ air force officers while he emphasises “10 air force officers and 1 girl” the night before she reaches Udhampur Air Force Station which he justifies with ‘being aware of what the world thinks of women’ and that he ‘cannot change the way the world thinks, but he can tell her’ is an effort to deflect from her chosen path.
This is followed by daily misogyny she faces in the Udhampur Airbase, after the ‘badlav’ or change that flight commander announces which was about to hit the all-male unit that Gunjan is about to enter. Well, as IAF raised issues about the misogyny, one cannot deny the patriarchy that is a part of the real-life arm forces in the country as well as any other fields for women.
The point here is, post taking a decision to walk a road less travelled, be it becoming the first woman pilot or starting a business in male-dominated field, there might be someone ready to pull you down in the name sheer ‘care’ and ‘protection’, don’t go down without a fight.
“… Uska Hal Pinjare Me Khed Ho Jana Nhi Hai, Pinjare Tor Ke Udh Jana Hai…” – Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
An army man who raised her daughter to become a what she wants to be and fight in the face of the world, encouraged her and put faith that her daughter’s dream of flying will come true one day, is not ready to accept that her daughter refuses to go over the humps.
It is true that the world, which can have better prospects than before, is still a difficult place for women to step up and seek what they want without falling on the face once, but it is these ‘break’ or ‘make’ moments in life where it is important to overcome the fear, ‘break the cage and fly high’.
GUNJAN SAXENA AND IAF CONTROVERSY
Post the release of the biopic movie, in its letter to Dharma Productions, Netflix and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), IAF has raised the issue regarding certain scenes and dialogues in the movie and trailer, which were forwarded for viewing, were found to ‘portray the IAF in an undue negative light”.
The letter said, “In the aim to glorify the screen character if ‘Ex-Flt Lt Gunjan Saxena’, M/S Dharma Productions presented some situations that are misleading and portray an inappropriate work culture, especially against women in the IAF.”
IS THE FIGHT OVER PATRIARCHY FOR A FEMALE PATRIOT OVER?
While the movie showcased the only woman who participated in Kargil War back in 1999 and did showcase the sexism in the Indian Air Force when it first welcomed women pilots to be a part of the army, today in 2020, three decades later, also we can observe only a meagre number of women in the Indian Air Force. It seems that the fight continues for a woman to have the right to live and die on the border for her ‘motherland’.