Gunjan Saxena Controversy

Karan Johar (KJo) makes the film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and launches Janhvi Kapoor the daughter of Sridevi and Boney Kapoor. It is touted as a biopic on the first female fighter pilot of India who flew in the Kargil War – with Pakistan. The war or perhaps better described as a “conflict” than war took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and along the Line of Control (LOC) boundary with Pakistan.

The researchers employed by KJo come up with their facts and name Gunjan Saxena as the first female pilot for Indian Air Force who flew in the Kargil conflict. Now it has come to light that the basic fact – as to who was the first female pilot to fly for India in the Kargil operations– is wrong in the biopic. It was not Gunjan Saxena rather it was Gunjan’s coursemate, Flight Lieutenant (retd) Sreevidya Rajan who flew first in the Kargil conflict along with other male colleagues.

Another important factual error in the movie is the portrayal that Gunjan was the only female pilot there. In addition to those gross misrepresentations, another – deliberate and studied fib in the movie – to appease the so-called liberal, progressive and fictitious class of Indian intelligentia – which exists only in the imagination of creatures perhaps miscreants is a better description for it like KJo – is the depiction of misogynistic male colleagues. That clearly damages the image and reputation of the IAF and sullies the face of modern India.

Unsurprisingly, the whole hell has broken loose.

Clarifying her position and point of Gunjan not being alone and not being the first female to fly in Kargil, after the movie was released on the OTT platforms, Sreevidya Rajan, wrote in a Facebook post accusing the makers of having ‘twisted the facts’. She wrote, “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.”

In her lengthy Facebook post Sreevidya said that Gunjan and she trained together at the Air Force Academy and Helicopter Training School. “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,” she wrote.

“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,” she added.

KJo shows in the movie Gunjan’s sorties are cancelled on a regular basis because no male officer is comfortable flying with her. It is a lie.

Asking her to arm-wrestle as a show of strength is also KJo spicing up the script – never happened says Sreevidya.

“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,” Sreevidya wrote.

Retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi, in an open letter, has also accused the filmmakers of “peddling lies”. She wrote, “Sreevidya Rajan was the first lady pilot who flew to Kargil – not Gunjan. Though, I am certain that Srividya has no complaints about this credit being taken away from her.”

In all this Gunjan Saxena finds herself in the middle of a national glare and uncomfortable controversy. Her entire defence seems to be a little misplaced.

Clarifying her position for the NDTV, not challenging Sreevidya Rajan or Namrita Chandi, Gunjan blames the mix up on the IAF administration. She said towards the end of the Kargil conflict, the IAF arranged for a media interaction where her name was put up as being the first woman to fly for the IAF in a combat zone.

“From July 1999 till today, my name has featured in a number of headlines, in a number of articles, and in the Limca Book of Records, and in one of the promotion exams taken by the air force,” she said.

Gunjan said in all these years, there has been no controversy about this.

What about the spicing up of the story peddling lies?

Well, quite conveniently Gunjan refers to those gross misrepresentations as KJo taking “cinematic liberty”.

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