Controversies around retired IAF officer Gunjan Saxena’s biopic, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl doesn’t seem to be dying down. The latest reports suggest that Gunjan Saxena was not the first woman to fly to Kargil. In an open letter, retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi has accused the makers of peddling lies, twisting facts, and showing male IAF officers in poor light.
According to her letter published in The Outlook, it wasn’t Gunjan but Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan who flew to Kargil first. Namrita wrote, “Srividya Rajan was the first lady pilot who flew to Kargil – not Gunjan. Though, I am certain that Srividya has no complaints about this credit being taken away from her (sic).”
Srividya, who was Gunjan’s coursemate, was also taken aback after watching the film. She says Gunjan was neither the first woman to be posted to the Udhampur base nor the first woman to fly to Kargil.
Rajan took to Facebook: “Both of us were posted to Udhampur in 1996 but in the movie, it was shown that she was the only lady pilot posted at the unit. Since the two of us were the first lady pilots to be posted to that helicopter unit, we were sceptical about our acceptance in the male-dominated niche area of flying (sic).”
Writing about the alleged factual inaccuracies in the film, Srividya added: “I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which was deployed at Srinagar. After a few days of operation, Gunjan Saxena came to Srinagar with the next set of crew. We actively participated in all operations given to us which included casualty evacuation, supply drop, communication sorties, SAR (search and rescue) (sic),” she added.
Srividya stressed how the male officers in the combat never sought any publicity. “In Kargil operations, male pilots had flown extensively and faced more hardships than us. But they never got or sought any publicity. We probably were given this fame because of our gender, which I do not support. In defence services, there is no disparity between male or female. We are all officers in uniform (sic),” she concluded.
Namrita who has served the IAF for 15 years as a helicopter pilot refutes the prejudice against women shown in the film. Citing her journey in the armed forces she wrote, “I have never faced the kind of abuse and maltreatment as was portrayed in the movie. 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. Sometimes, my brother officers stood guard outside the curtain while I changed. Never in my entire career span of 15 years have I been disrespected or mistreated (sic).”
She concludes her letter with a piece of advice for Janhvi Kapoor who played Gunjan Saxena in the biopic, “Lady, let me advise you, please, never again do a film of this kind if you are a proud Indian woman. Stop showcasing Indian professional women and men in such poor light (sic).”