Disheartening To See People Dent My Reputation: Gunjan Saxena

The former IAF pilot cleared the air on the rumours surrounding the Netflix film.

4 min read
Disheartening To See People Dent My Reputation: Gunjan Saxena
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he former Recently, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had raised objection over its portrayal in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, former IAF pilot Gunjan Saxena, on whose life the film is based, has spoken about her experience in the force as compared to what has been portrayed in the film and the rumours around it.

In a blog written for NDTV, the former pilot wrote that she feels it's time to 'clear the dust.'

"Let me inform readers with utmost conviction and honesty that even though cinematic liberties were exercised in my biopic by the filmmakers, what they did not miss or exaggerate was me, the real Gunjan Saxena. I admit without hesitation that I have even more of an iron will and resoluteness than was portrayed in the movie. In my short career of eight years in the Air Force, the most precious commodity I earned was the admiration and respect of my seniors, juniors and peers. It was absolutely disheartening to see a small group of people trying to dent this hard-earned reputation with nonsensical rants," wrote the former pilot.

"How can anybody deny the obvious fact of me being a pioneering woman officer during the Kargil war?"
Gunjan Saxena, Former IAF pilot

Some reports claimed that the Netflix film wrongly portrayed her to be Shaurya Chakra awardee. Throwing light on the rumour, Saxena wrote, "Neither I nor the filmmakers ever claimed I was a "Shaurya Chakra" awardee. After Kargil, I received the "Shaurya Veer" award from a civilian organisation in Uttar Pradesh. A certain section of the internet news possibly turned "Veer" into "Chakra". This has been clarified many times during my media interactions for the movie's promotions. Is it fair to blame me for this?"


Another issue that had been trending since the movie's release was the 'wrong' portrayal of gender bias in the IAF. The former pilot addressed the issue and wrote that the gender bias wasn't at an 'organizational level' but with some individuals. "The IAF is too big and too respectable a force to even be scratched by the controversy. The IAF as an organization is not into institutional discrimination, be it on gender or anything. I can speak for myself."

When I joined there was no discrimination at the organizational level. But yes, individually, no two people are the same and some individuals adapt to change better than others. 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. I also combated the difficulties of prejudice and discrimination at the hands of a few individuals for being a woman. But since it was never at the organisational level, I got equal opportunities all the time.


"Never in my initial years of service did I ever complain of infrastructure issues, be it the lack of a separate toilet or women's changing rooms. In fact, when I did the survival course for almost a month, I stayed with male officers in one tent and on many occasions, freshened up early in the morning in the open jungles. I did not ask for any concessions; I wanted to do the survival course in the same way as my male colleagues," she added.

"The point I want to make is that I have never highlighted these petty issues in any anti-IAF rant and I will never do so. The movie has not shown my character complaining about the non-availability of toilets. It is important, yes, but too mundane an issue to crib about."
Gunjan Saxena, Former IAF pilot

Talking about the depiction of the Kargil War and its events, Saxena wrote, "As I understand, the film was never intended to be a documentary on the Kargil war. The idea was to showcase my life, my journey, my dreams and my little achievements. Neither I nor Sharan Sharma (the director) intended to insult the IAF. I can say this with conviction. In fact, where I was regularly consulted on the phone or in person (I was present during four or five shoots in Lucknow) was on the authenticity of the uniforms, my mannerisms, the layout of offices and technical terms or jargon linked to flying."

Janhvi Kapoor in a still from Gunjan Saxena.
(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

Gunjan Saxena concluded by saying, "Right from the day I was born, I have lived every single day of my life with people in military uniform. Both my brother and I chose careers in the Armed Forces. Even after hanging up my uniform, I continued to live on the Air Force premises as an officer's wife. I do not need sermons from anybody for my knowledge or the lack of it as far as the Armed Forces are concerned. Whatever little I have attained, both on the personal and professional front, is from the IAF. The rest, I leave to your good judgement and fine wisdom."

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