Sreevidya Rajan, who served with Gunjan Saxena, reveals why she didn’t raise objections before biopic’s release

Sreevidya Rajan, who served with Gunjan Saxena in the Indian Air Force and has refuted claims that Gunjan was the first female pilot in the IAF to fly in combat zone, has revealed why she reserved her comments until after the biopic’s release.
Janhvi Kapoor as Gunjan Saxena in a still from Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
Janhvi Kapoor as Gunjan Saxena in a still from Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
Updated on Aug 20, 2020 10:01 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

Former Indian Air Force pilot Gunjan Saxena has been made the centre of a controversy following the release of a biopic on her life, starring Janhvi Kapoor and directed by Sharan Sharma. Since the film’s release, concerns have been raised about its historical accuracy, particularly about Gunjan’s stature as the first female IAF pilot to fly in combat zone. A fellow pilot, retired Flight Lieutenant Sreevidya Rajan, has claimed that she was the first female pilot, and not Gunjan.

In an interview to Mid-Day, Sreevidya has said that it was an oversight on the filmmakers’ part to not include any mention of her at all, and to propagate an alternate narrative that excluded her achievements. She said that in a conversation she had with Gunjan in 2017, she’d asked about the film, and was told that it would be about Gunjan’s life.

“I cannot question a filmmaker why they chose her and not me. When I saw her being portrayed as the first woman pilot, my friends and colleagues suggested I respond to it. But I thought as long as the story inspires women to join the forces, I am happy,” she said. Sreevidya also mentioned that she spoke to Gunjan earlier this week, and expressed her concerns. “I told her it was an oversight on her and the filmmakers’ part to not reflect me at all,” she said.

 

Gunjan in an interview to NDTV on Tuesday had spoken about the confusion. She said, “When I went to Kargil, I never went there thinking of setting any records, or trying to make history. My only focus was to fly and do my job as well as possible.” She said that towards the end of the conflict, the IAF arranged for a media interaction, and it was then that her name was projected as being the first woman to fly for the IAF in a combat zone. “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,” she said.

Also read: Gunjan Saxena responds to Sreevidya Rajan’s claims of being first female combat pilot: ‘Never flew with her at the same time’

Shedding some light on the media perception of the events, Sreevidya continued, “When the first batch went to war, only designated senior officers from Delhi were allowed to speak to the media; we were [barred from] interacting with them. I remember speaking only to Barkha Dutt, who had specifically asked for an interview with a woman pilot [carrying out missions]. By the time the second crew came, the media was allowed and Gunjan was interviewed. Naturally, people assumed she was the first woman [to achieve the feat], but after the war, the IAF arranged for press interactions with both of us. As per the IAF rules, course mates cannot fly together in the same aircraft, so she flew the sortie for NDTV’s video interview.”

About their current equation, she added, “I have nothing against her. She is a woman of achievements that haven’t even made it to the film. Neither Gunjan nor I will throw muck at each other on a public platform. When you have served in a war together, you are like siblings. A film can never come between us.”

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Friday, January 21, 2022