What Do Air Force Officers Think About Dharma’s ‘Gunjan Saxena’?

Indian Air Force officers open up about the portrayal of IAF in ‘Gunjan Saxena’

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'Gunjan Saxena' has been creating a lot of buzz, here's why.

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl released on Netflix on 12 August. Starring Janhvi Kapoor in the titular role of former Air Force pilot Gunjan Saxena, the film is a fictionalised biopic of the first woman pilot who fought in the Kargil war.

Ever since the film released, there has been a lot of buzz around it, but not for the reasons one might imagine. Soon after the release of the film, the Indian Air Force sent a notice to the filmmakers expressing their disappointment over the negative portrayal of the Air Force in the film. This sparked a debate across social media platforms and beyond, with many netizens from 'defence background' speaking up about the treatment of women in the Air Force.

Here's what some pilots from the Air Force have said:

1. Gunjan Saxena's Colleague, Sreevidya Rajan

Sreevida Rajan, the only other woman officer to have accompanied Gunjan Saxena at the Udhampur base, took to social media to shed light on how they were treated by their male counterparts.

“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.”
Sreevidya Rajan

2. Retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi

In an open letter published by Outlook, retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi alleged that the narrative in Gunjan Saxena was "skewed." She blamed the filmmakers for peddling "lies."

What Do Air Force Officers Think About Dharma’s ‘Gunjan Saxena’?
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
“Officers are officers. Whether with long hair or short. Never are they paraded for losing in a childish strength game. Never are the briefings interrupted in that rude and ugly manner.”
Namrita Chandi

She adds, "In fact, men in uniform are true gentlemen and professionals. They go out of their way to make lady officers comfortable and adjust. Yes, initially there were teething troubles like no changing rooms or exclusive ladies toilets; yet the men made space for us."

3. Retired Wing Commander Anupama Joshi

Retired Wing Commander Anupama Joshi, who was a part of the first batch of 12 female IAF officers, told Livemint that when they entered the Air Force, the culture was still "evolving."

“Senior officers didn’t know whether to treat me like a lady or a junior officer. Everything was evolving. All the attention was on us, our batchmates used to get really flustered.”
Anupama Joshi to Livemint

She also added that women had to fight for their rights and facilities. For the first month of training, they didn't even have uniforms. In order to get the same tenure rights as her male counterparts, Joshi had to go to court in 2007.

What Do Air Force Officers Think About Dharma’s ‘Gunjan Saxena’?
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

4. IAF's First Woman Air Marshal, Padmavathy Bandopadhyay

Bandopadhyay told the Deccan Chronicle that women had to prove themselves just like the men.

“There is nothing like man and woman (in the IAF). When we wear the uniform, we all are officers. You have to prove yourself and then nobody questions one’s capabilities.”
Padmavathy Bandopadhyay to Deccan Chronicle

What does the real Gunjan Saxena think?

On 17 August, Gunjan Saxena took to social media to clarify her stance. In an open letter published by NDTV, Saxena explained certain inaccurate facts that were going around i.e. her being a 'Shaurya Veer' awardee and not a 'Shaurya Chakra' awardee.

“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.”
Gunjan Saxena to NDTV
What Do Air Force Officers Think About Dharma’s ‘Gunjan Saxena’?
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

In another Livemint article, Saxena is quoted as saying:

“No it didn’t happen like that. There was a mild apprehension is how I would put it.”
Gunjan Saxena to Livemint
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