With every new release, actor Janhvi Kapoor finds herself with a target on her back and it’s no different this time around, with Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl — only the second feature of her career. “I haven’t made my peace with it,” Janhvi told Hindustan Times about being forced, again and again, to prove herself. “But the sentiment has been fuelled and amplified in the last month,” she said. “I hope it’s not something that I have to deal with with every release.”
In the last month, several prominent film personalities have found themselves at the receiving end of vicious online attacks. After the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, those in the inner circle of Bollywood — like Janhvi, the daughter of the late screen icon Sridevi and film producer Boney Kapoor — have been bullied because a vocal corner of the internet believes they’ve robbed ‘outsiders’ like Sushant of their deserving place in the industry.
“I’ve kind of fast-tracked into this system already,” Janhvi admitted. “I’ve skipped many steps that many people have had to fight for. I’ve gotten chances that many people wouldn’t have gotten easily. I’m here already through a much easier route than most people have had. So from now if the journey is a little bit of an uphill climb and it’s a little bit harder for people to accept me then I’ll accept it. If I’ve skipped a certain portion of the journey that people are subjected to then this is my journey from here on, and I’ll embrace it.”
But people seem to have forgotten that her co-star in the film, the illustrious Pankaj Tripathi, is living, breathing proof of the theory that true talent, regardless of where it comes from, will find its place. Pankaj said that “it is not OK” for people to have been so quick to judge Gunjan Saxena. “Right now, it is as if the book is being judged by its cover,” he said.
The film, a biopic of the Indian Air Force’s first female combat pilot, like its star and producer (Karan Johar), has been caught in the crossfire of the ongoing ‘insider-outsider’ debate. Its trailer has received over 225000 ‘likes’ on YouTube, but also over 125000 ‘dislikes’. “I know that we live in a democracy and everyone has the freedom to express themselves, but it would be better if they watch the film first. That would be more fruitful. Right now people are shooting in the dark,” Pankaj said.
Janhvi Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi in a still from Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
Janhvi said that she isn’t actively trying to navigate through the unfortunate situation, but is going about it in the way that she would have “if this wasn’t the sentiment on social media.” She said that now is the time to exercise “a little bit of sensitivity” — both for the sake of the film and for the sake of what people are feeling right now. To “take away from what (people are) feeling,” she said, “would be slightly demeaning.” But at the same time, the actor said, “I know I’m confident of what I’ve done, and I’m confident of the film and the story… I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be apologetic for what we’ve done.”
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is slated for an August 12 release on Netflix, which debutant director Sharan Sharma said he was “more than excited about,” despite the film having been “obviously intended for a theatrical release.”