Disclaimer: The following post contains spoilers from Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
Janhvi Kapoor starrer biopic, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, is an inspiring tale of courage and determination, that most women would relate to - because most women have, over the years, fought for an equal place in the world.
However, the film is not just about a woman who smashed through the glass ceiling. Rather, it's also a father-daughter story, that focuses on the role progressive, supportive fathers play in shaping their children's life.
And Pankaj Tripathi does complete justice to his role of Lt. Col. (Rtd.) Ajay Saxena - Gunjan Saxena's father, mentor, and her fiercest supporter.
For a generation that grew up watching Simran beg her father for a chance at a trip, and later, love, Gunjan Saxena's father is a refreshing change. Because all he ever expects from his daughter is to chase her dreams, work hard, and be true to her passion.
When his young daughter expresses a desire to be a pilot, he does not just 'accept' her dreams. Rather, he becomes the force that fuels her ambitions.
Because he is aware that his daughter has unknowingly thrown down the gauntlet to a patriarchal society, by daring to dream. But, instead of discouraging her before the dream takes root, he begins to encourage her from the second he is aware of her desires.
It is his constant encouragement, unflinching support, and guidance that gives Gunjan the courage to continuously fight society and system, to achieve her dreams.
He becomes the wind beneath her wings, who trains with her, fights his family for her, and is the voice Gunjan listens to in her darkest moments.
He is her harshest critic and her loudest cheerleader, and when her own conviction fails her, he motivates her to not give up.
But what really makes Ajay Saxena a father-figure to look up to is the way he addresses his wife and son's concerns regarding Gunjan's decisions. In a way, his wife and son represent the section of society that believes in being practical and protecting their daughters, till the time the world changes.
He, on the other hand, does not believe in waiting for the world to change, but in driving that change and accepting the challenges that come in the way. After all, the world that is trying to 'save women', births the very evils that are a threat to women.
And that's why, his actions speak to the millions of girls, and their parents, who dream of building an equal world.
Pankaj Tripathi, as Ajay Saxena, never resounds to shouting or loud gestures to get his point across. He is, in fact, the lone comic relief in a film that is light-hearted but definitely not superficial or flippant.
In his usual inimitable style, Tripathi adds a sense of warmth to his role that is hard to put into words but leaves an emotional impact on the audience, reminding us of our own fathers.
Pankaj Tripathi has never delivered a false performance in his career. That's the reason why he was equally convincing as a violent butcher (Gangs of Wasseypur), a soft-spoken colleague (Masaan), a practical officer (Newton), and a strict teacher (Nil Battey Sannata).
But, in Gunjan Saxena, it appears that Tripathi comes the closest to his real-life persona - of a man who challenges society not by fighting it head-on, but by simply showing a better, progressive, successful alternative.
Here's to fathers who raise their daughters like they would raise their sons - with love and support.
All images are screenshots from the trailer on YouTube or provided by Netflix.