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Gunjan Saxena: Lucky To Have Support From IAF

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Mumbai: Indian Air Force pilot Gunjan Saxena, whose life story has been made into a feature film, says she was lucky to have the support of commanding officers and supervisors in the IAF but whenever there is a major change in an organisation some individuals take more time to adjust than others.

The Flight Lieutenant’s response comes after the Indian Air Force (IAF) wrote a letter to the censor board objecting to its “undue negative” portrayal in the movie “Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl”, which released on Netflix on Wednesday.

According to a senior official, the letter mentions “concerns related to the movie’s portrayal of gender bias as an institutional work culture” at the IAF.

In a statement, Saxena, who became the first woman pilot to take part in the 1999 Kargil war, said there are different kind of individuals who make up the environment in an organisation.

“Whenever you are in any kind of environment, there are different kinds of individuals that make up that environment so when there is a major change happening, some of these individuals are ready to accept this change more readily than the others and some take more time to adjust to this change.

“What is really of importance here is – even though it took time for some individuals to change, those individuals did change, it did happen and in a very positive and right direction,” she said in a statement.

The film charts Saxena’s journey from Lucknow to the Indian Air Force and her role during the Kargil war. She became the first woman Shaurya Chakra awardee for running rescue and supply operations during the war.

The former pilot, who has been portrayed in the film by Janhvi Kapoor, said it was a privilege to be the first to do something.

“I think I was always lucky to have people around me who supported and rooted for me be it my family or in the IAF, at both the places I got support to pursue my dream. It’s a privilege to be the first one to be doing something, but along with privilege comes a lot of responsibility.

“Whenever there is a major change happening in any organisation or in any field for that matter, it is never easy – there are troubles,” she said.

She said she remains grateful to her fellow officers, supervisors, and commanding officers for helping her whenever she found herself in a difficult situation.

Saxena also clarified that officers in the IAF never differentiated between male and female trainees.

“Even when we started the flying training, the first lesson that was given to us as lady cadets or trainees was that the aircraft doesn’t know and doesn’t differentiate whether the person flying it is a male or a female.

“So the instructors told us that they are not going to differentiate whether it is a lady trainee or a male trainee and they are going to give us the same level of training and will also set the same standards for us and I think that is the reason that when I was performing any of my sorties, I was performing equally well,” she said.

Saxena said she was proud of the film made on her life and hopes it will inspire young girls to go after their dreams fearlessly.

“Over the last three years, an incredible team poured their hearts into this film that dramatises the real-life events of my life and yet is true in its portrayal of hope, love and determination. I am proud of the film and the love it has received.

“I hope that this story inspires all young Indians, especially young girls, to be fearless and encourages them to dare to dream.”

Saxena’s career as a helicopter pilot ended after seven years in 2004. The concept of permanent commission for women was not there during her time.

She is married to Wing Commander Gautam Narain, an Indian Air Force pilot and instructor at the National Defence Academy. The Varanasi based couple has a daughter.

Directed by Sharan Sharma and produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, “Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl” also features Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Manav Vij.

The film has been written by Sharma and Nikhil Mehrotra with additional dialogues by Hussain Dalal. Somen Mishra is the creative producer.

(PTI)

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