BIOPIC OF GUNJAN SAXENA, The instructor of the first batch of women pilots at the IAF, Retired Wing Commander IK Khanna, has written a column of his opinions for ‘The Print’ where he has claimed that much of the incidents and facts are shown in the movie with respect to the Indian Air Force was inaccurate.
As per his statement, he was one of the instructors who trained the first batch of seven female pilots back in July 1994, when they arrived at the Air Force Station at Yelahanka, Bengaluru to start their training on the transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force. He claimed that under his watch, all the female pilots were treated equally as their male counterparts and he wondered if the screenplay of the biopic was actually shown to the IAF before the film was made. “No one had to run to their room to change as shown in Gunjan Saxena,” he wrote.
In the context, he narrated the story of Harita Kaur Deol who was supposed to perform an operation like the one Gunjan does in the film, on a training flight accompanied by a journalist. She was supposed to shut down an engine and re-start it mid-air. Khanna wrote, “As she went through the paces with a demonstration of the exercise by the instructor followed by practice by her, I could see the journalist sweating more than Harita.”
Khanna continued that gender bias has been a part of the traditional Indian society since ages but females have also been a part of the defence forces in a number of fields since years. Thus, the fact that Gunjan Saxena, or any other woman pilot, as shown in the film, was subjected to arm-wrestling, was quite unbelievable and untrue.
Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl stars Jahnvi Kapoor in the titular role and is directed by Sharan Sharma. This movie has sparked controversy ever since its release on August 12. Several people from the IAF including the actual Gunjan Saxena herself stated that the movie portrays the Indian Air Force inaccurately. Sreevidya Rajan, one of Gunjan’s fellow officers had said in a Facebook post, “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 an interview with the NDTV, Gunjan said in response to Sreevidya’s statement, “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. Between July 1999 and today, I don’t see what has changed. The only thing that has changed is this movie being released.”