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Are Biopics like Gunjan Saxena Misrepresenting Facts for Entertainment?

The new Netflix Film Gunjan Saxena is in a sea of criticism for many reasons


The true essence of a biopic lies in the inspiring story that we get to know which otherwise would remain unheard. But manipulating these stories for the purpose of entertainment is something that needs to be looked upon. 

I know I had written a review on Gunjan Saxena praising the film for bringing to the limelight an untold story of India’s first IAF Woman officer to fly in the combat zone. 

But when you get to know that more than half of it was just a fictionalized material with no truth, the whole idea of biopics got me into thinking whether misrepresentation of facts for the sole purpose of entertainment does any kind of justice to the biopics? 

There was no sexism at IAF

gunjan saxena

The film Gunjan Saxena highlights the blatant sexism that the young officer faced by her fellow IAF colleagues. But in a letter by Gunjan’s fellow batch mate, Srividya Rajan, it is clearly stated that while the issue regarding girl’s toilet and changing room is true, the fellow male colleagues never made them feel unwanted. Rather they provided all possible help to make up for the shortcomings in their training center. Here is an excerpt from her open letter-

'We never faced any humiliating physical strength demonstrations as shown in the movie. We were never ill-treated or humiliated by our fellow officers. As shown in the movie, there were no separate toilet facilities and changing rooms for ladies in the unit. After initial difficulties, we shared the limited resources with our fellow officers and they always accommodated and helped us whenever it was needed.'

Just imagine how beautiful and empowering it would be to depict men in the film like they actually were- supportive and empathetic and not sexist and rude. Not only would it provide a new perspective, but it would also inspire and encourage other men to be the same and assure women that such places are a healthy environment to work at. 

gunjan saxena1

The IAF has come forward questioning the undue negative portrayal of the institution. While Dharma Productions did agree to represent IAF with authenticity and make all efforts to ensure that the film helps to inspire the next generation of IAF officers, the institution is disappointed in the production house’s efforts.

Namrita Chandi, a fellow batchmate of Gunjan Saxena writes in her letter

'Creative license is one thing but when you deal with institutions, you cannot change facts. Elaborate and fantasize, if you must. But don’t peddle lies.'

Her letter reminds me of yet another biopic released recently – Shakuntala Devi. 

shakuntala devi

Based on the life of world-famous mathematician, the film has been fictionalized to a great extent. But the good thing is that it has nowhere defamed anyone or anything and used the “creative license” properly without peddling any lies.

While the controversies surrounding whether or not Gunjan Saxena is the first female IAF officer to fly in the war zone don’t hold much relevance after all these years of her career, the nepotism debate is yet another hurdle that the film is facing. I do not deny that Janhvi did a good job but could anyone else have done it better? Probably.

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