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HomeOpinionNewsmaker of the WeekGunjan Saxena on Netflix was 'Bharat Ki Beti', until facts came tumbling...

Gunjan Saxena on Netflix was ‘Bharat Ki Beti’, until facts came tumbling out

The Netflix movie on the life and tenure of retired IAF officer Gunjan Saxena has been roiled by controversy since the release of its trailer.

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Gunjan Saxena has become a household name — for the wrong reasons, all thanks to Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Netflix, which has come out with a movie on her.

The movie — Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl — has been roiled by controversy since the release of its trailer for distorting events surrounding the life and tenure of retired Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, and her participation in the 1999 battle with Pakistan.

A long list of factual errors turned Gunjan Saxena into a mere controversy. And it all started with the trailer, which depicted rampant sexism in the IAF — the first of the three Services to give combat roles to women. This is why Gunjan Saxena is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: Gunjan Saxena on Netflix made me a bechari, from being a strong woman in my daughters’ eyes

Angry IAF

So peeved was the IAF that it wrote to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBDC) about the “undue negative portrayal” in the Netflix movie starring Janhvi Kapoor in the lead role.

“In the aim to glorify the screen character of ‘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,” the IAF’s letter to the CBFC read.

This opened a Pandora’s box on news channels and social media, with several military personnel, both serving and retired, criticising the film.

From being hailed as a “fitting tribute to every ‘Bharat Ki Beti’ who dares to dream big and fly high in the sky”, the movie has come to be recognised as a “national embarrassment”.

Also read: I trained IAF’s 1st batch of women pilots. ‘Gunjan Saxena’ gets a lot wrong


Gunjan Saxena was ‘Bharat Ki Beti’, until facts came tumbling out.

The Kargil Girl projects the retired officer as the first woman helicopter pilot of the IAF, which is absolutely false. The movie also shows her as the only women pilot of her era, which is also not true.

Wing Commander I.K. Khanna (Retd) wrote in an article that the first batch of seven women pilots had arrived at the Air Force Station at Yelahanka, Bangalore, in July 1994 to commence training on IAF transport aircraft. So, Gunjan Saxena could not have become the first pilot to join the IAF in 1999 — which is when the Kargil battle took place — since a lot of women were already flying for the force.

The movie also seeks to portray Gunjan Saxena as the first woman pilot to take part in the Kargil War, a claim which was rejected by another woman pilot. Flight Lieutenant Sreevidya Rajan said she was posted to the Udhampur base and that she, not Gunjan, was the first woman to fly in Kargil.

Gunjan Saxena has also been wrongly identified in the social media and certain media reports as having been awarded a Shaurya Chakra, which she hasn’t.

ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta has noted that there was no Cheetah helicopter involved in the Kargil battle and no pilots were taken hostage, as shown in the film.

Also read: Gunjan Saxena biopic passes with flying colours despite rocky performances

A household name

The movie conjured such clearly refutable claims that the part about Gunjan Saxena flying in the Kargil war and carrying out multiple reconnaissance and rescue missions just like Flt Lt Sreevidya Rajan and other pilots became secondary.

And yet, the movie has managed to find a large viewership. Some are taking it at face value and believing what is shown while others are angry and accusing the filmmakers and Bollywood of deliberating showing the Indian armed forces in a bad light.

However, the claims and counterclaims, some right and some wrong, became the centre of the discussion and a social media buzz.

Eventually, everything added up to making Gunjan Saxena a household name. But at what cost?

Views are personal.

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  1. Karan johar nothing surprising. Wish bwood was loyal India the country that feeds it and not to its enemies.

  2. Almost all the facts in thus article is wrong . Wonder if they are cashing on the controversy or did the writer even watch the movie ?
    To begin with no one claims she was the only woman officer in Kargil. Same goes with the award . While all movies should be jingoistic war movies where no one is allowed to say the wrong in the armed forces . Wrong exists . Isn’t it a fact that women are still in 2020 fighting for equal rights in Indian army ? They don’t even get the same package for heavens sake or a choice to be in combat even if proven to be the best . The defense do NOT treat women equally and just because a movie showed reality it’s not good now .

  3. This is the reason why we do not watch bollywood movies ,they dont carry out proper research before starting a project that to of such a large scale.they dont find any difference bet sanju or gunjan saxena ,for them both are same as long as they pocket crores of money

  4. It is strange that The Print has not once mentioned or provided a link to what the real Gunjan Saxena has to say about all the controversies. While quoting several IAF officers’ displeasure, how could you miss Flt. Lt. Saxena’s detailed post in which she has slammed Shekhar Gupta’s review of her biopic. Karan Johar has done Flt.Lt. Saxena’s legacy a great disservice and Shekhar Gupta has added his bit to it too. Sadly, the movie has triggered of a “who was first ” war among lady officers. Readers should read Wg Cdr. Namrita Chandi’s account which seemed less a defence of the IAF and more of an envious post that a biopic was made on Gunjan Saxena and not her. After specifically egging on Flt. Lt. Sreevidya Rajan, in her post, Namrita Chandi has ensured that women officers fight among themselves in public as to who was first. A sad state of affairs indeed. Not sure how many young women would be inspired to join the IAF given the drama both offscreen and onscreen. The defence forces are the only govt jobs which are so heavily advertised “Come join the Indian Army/Navy/Air Force”. People love to be jingoistic but will not join the armed forces easily.

  5. It’s a Movie. Still using a real identity for publicity and adding spice and controversies that didn’t exist in reality makes it a half-truth half-lie. It’s sure not a documentary but then it shouldn’t be called the story of Gunjan Saxena in the first place. It’s almost as if making a Movie Called Gandhi and saying Gandhi shotdown all British during Dandi March which would be a lie and thus renders it a fiction instead of story of Gandhi. It’s cruel to use someone’s name for publicity and fill it with half-assed facts which is worse than lies especially since some Indians take Bollywood Movies and Series on real identities at face value.

  6. People like karan johar should be taken to task if facts have been distorted by him to make money. IAF shld sue him and make an example of him.

  7. What do you expect from a Dharma/KJo production? They are in the business of fiction based entertainment – they don’t make historically correct documentary films.

  8. Very poorly handled.civilians did not even question the organization and ill portrayed officers because we all know people are different and will act different no matter where they are.Indian civilians have deep rooted faith in the defence(Army/Navy/airforce) a movie would not have undone that. ONLY the IAF & real GS should have spoken.with other officers speaking that too at different tunes & On unprofessional platforms goes to proof exactly what GS was trying to say. If it’s about stating facts then it should have happened the right way. Sad.

  9. The Media is irresponsible. While holding no brief for anyone, Times Now and Republic have become bankrupt of newsworthy stories. They are fixated on Sushant as if there are no other stories for them to follow. Obviously the other stories relate to human beings living on the fringe of poverty whereas Sushant gives TRPs. Have you noticed how Indian anchors have to shout vs foreign esp UK news anchors show no emotion when relaying news as if they believe that there is greater credence to their stories when they shout.

  10. Why was this righteous anger not displayed when Uri was released? Art has the license to take liberties, its a film not a documentary!


  12. Air Force has been doing every possible damage control. There could be many more skeletons in its cupboard.

  13. This is what an agenda looks like.. Even theprint has jumped onto the bandwagon of running a concerted campaign against guess what a movie.. Guess why.. Since their great editor and owner Mr. GUPTA seems to have taken it personally.. Pathetic..

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