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Columnist Riccha Grrover in an exclusive interview for Asian Lite International with Bollywood Actress extraordinaire Janhvi Kapoor about her recent pathbreaking film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl which is a biopic Inspired by the true story of Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena- India’s first woman combat aviator who went all guns blazing into the heart of the war zone in Kargil circa 1999.

Having discovered her passion for flying at a very young age, the film follows Gunjan’s journey, played by Janhvi Kapoor, as she chases her dream with focus, determination and optimism, whilst dealing with the obstacles and challenges that were thrown her way.

In an exclusive conversation with Janhvi Kapoor…

RG- When you got the opportunity to work on this biopic that involved themes of war, forces, women’s empowerment based on a real life woman pilot how did u feel?

JK- I felt excited about it! I felt it was a world I knew nothing about and a world I wanted to explore as there was so much to learn, so much was required of me to deliver the part convincingly. As an actor it was extremely exciting to dive into this opportunity so I could both imbibe and translate all of this on screen with aplomb!

RG- How did u feel when u met real life Gunjan Saxena? What were the challenges you faced in preparing for this role?

JK- It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life when I interacted with Gunjan Saxena Ma’am. There was so much to grasp about her- the nuances, her inspiring demeanour, her go-getter outlook and it was a wonderful feeling to be with her to imbibe it all so I could reflect that in my role.

As far as challenges go, well nothing comes easy so yes those are there always. However the amount of joy there was in this film project that it didn’t feel like a challenge at all but was like a learning-filled fabulous experience.

RG- What was your preparation process for this film that involved helicopters, war scenes, tough terrain- was it intense and long-drawn or did you adapt to it quickly and naturally as an actor?

JK- preparation gives you confidence as an actor to carry off a role so it’s most crucial. Hence there was a lot of preparation that went into the making of this film for me which included all sorts of trainings- obstacle course training, weights training, observing officers for understanding body language, familiarisation with the cockpit, getting used to choppers. Also as I mentioned I prepared with spending time with Gunjan ma’am to grasp and reflect her personality, her journey with authenticity to audiences and this was most crucial to me as portraying her.

RG – Gunjan saxena has been heard to have said many times that she rather be known as Cheetah pilot not as a woman pilot. Do u think is it important to focus on the job and not make it gendered or is it important to highlight its a woman pilot as it raises awareness that women are now shoulder to shoulder with men in the forces?

JK- It was important initially indeed to generate awareness yes that there are capable female cadets in armed forces but the idea is to get to a point when this kind of gender referencing is not needed as jobs should depend on capacity, capability, aptitude and not gendered notions.

RG- What’s your vision for ur future work-do u want to focus on more women centric films and raise the banner for women related stories in India?

JK- I want to work on a repertoire of films that have a character that is written well, fulfils a purpose, and gives me the scope to demonstrate my breadth of skills and acting calibre to make memorable cinema rather than be only limited to women-centric.

RG- How do u feel as you have acted out such an important story of a woman  leading from the front to indians around the world through the medium of cinema- was this a big responsibility?

JK- I knew it was an inspiring story that was being told and had to be done responsibly. It is a story of hope, of resilience, belief, passion, drive, grit and I hope people will take all that positive messaging away from this film!

RG- What other films are you working on that are in the pipeline?

JK- I’m going to be seen in Rooh afza and Dostana 2 as my upcoming films.

Janhvi Kapoor gives a true to character performance and highlights the real Gunjan Saxena’s struggle of overcoming gender discrimination both at home and at the workplace in the indian context in her times, through her impactful acting in the film. The film breaks various barriers and the positive messaging in the film is refreshing and Janhvi carries the film on her shoulders with gusto.

Uplifting, heartwarming and gripping —the film is certainly one of the best to have come out this year so far with absolutely fine acting by the talented Janhvi Kapoor.

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