'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl': Meet the real-life star behind Netflix war drama starring Janhvi Kapoor
Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena became the first Indian female Air Force officer to fly in the Kargil War in 1999
Netflix's upcoming Indian war drama 'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl' narrates the gritty, inspirational story of fearless Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena, who became the first Indian female Air Force officer to fly in the Kargil War in 1999.
At the height of the armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control (LOC), Pakistani soldiers fired at any Indian Army helicopter or plane they could spot. The then-25-year-old flying officer, posted at Udhampur, Saxena became the first woman to enter the combat zone in Kargil. She wrote history with the pivotal role she played in the war, changing the status quo in the Indian Air Force.
In 2016 in an interview with Indian news channel NDTV, Saxena said she was one of the three flying officers who were commissioned as India's first three women fighter pilots. Their mission was to evacuate injured Indian Army soldiers stuck in the war zone. She recounted the time from over 20 years ago. "I think it is the ultimate feeling that you can ever have as a helicopter pilot. That was one of our main roles there — casualty evacuation. I would say it's a very satisfying feeling when you save a life because that is what you're there for," she had said.
In another recent interview, she recalled how it felt to be informed about her role all those years ago and how it was a turning point in her life. "The moment I came to know that I was part of the operation when my flight commander told me that I'd be joining my colleagues in Srinagar... that is something I will always remember." Born into an Army family in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Saxena always knew she wanted to fly high. But at a time when Indian women weren't even driving cars on the roads, how did Saxena go on to become the first female fighter pilot?
Directed by Sharan Sharma, Netflix's 'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl' tells this very tale of courage and passion. The biopic stars Janhvi Kapoor as Gunjan Saxena and portrays Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi, Manav Vij and Vineet Kumar Singh in pivotal roles.
One of the main people to play a role in pushing Saxena to follow her dreams was her father. Graduating from Hansraj College in Delhi, she cleared the entrance exam and joined the Indian Air Force in 1994. In the book 'Kargil: Untold Stories From The War' written by Rachna Bisht Rawat, the author elaborates how Saxena flew Cheetah helicopter at heights close to 18,000 ft to lift troops, carry materials to the frontlines and evacuate more than 900 casualties as well as many fallen heroes.
And while she is now retired after serving a tenure of seven years, she has set an example for thousands of female pilot aspirants. The Indian Air Force today has more than 1,600 women officers.
Tune into Netflix on August 12, 2020, to know more about the marvel that Gunjan Saxena is.