Manushi Chhillar: Was mentally ready for brief of supportive wife

The Indian cinema landscape is abuzz with anticipation for the forthcoming action-packed thriller, “Operation Valentine,” which promises to bring an Indian interpretation of the thrilling aviation drama akin to the iconic Hollywood classic “Top Gun” (1986). A trailblazer in her own right, actress Manushi Chhillar, in this Varun Tej-starrer, is set to redefine the conventional parameters set for female leads in such narratives.

Initially prepared to assume the character of a supportive Air Force officer’s wife, Chhillar was drawn to the project for its portrayal of the Armed Forces’ valor. Her perspective shifted dramatically upon discovering that the role she was to inhabit was far more substantial than first revealed. “My agent told me, ‘She is an Air Force officer’s wife waiting for him to come back home.’ But as I read the script, I found that she plays a far more significant role,” Chhillar recounts, a twinge of excitement undeniable in her voice.

The film is not just a display of high-octane action but also deeply explores the fabric of human connections and the sense of brotherhood that binds officers together. The narrative, as revealed by Chhillar, goes beyond the battlefield to capture the essence of these interpersonal dynamics.

Director Shakti Pratap Singh Hada has crafted a narrative that extends beyond the genre’s limitations. To Chhillar’s delight, her character, Wing Commander Ahana Gill, is a radar controller. This responsibility served as a resonant chord for Chhillar, whose personal history includes a lineage connected to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the army.

“I’m a DRDO kid, and my uncle is in the army,” she shares. “I grew up around these families.” Emphasizing the progressive changes within the Armed Forces, which have seen an increasing number of women in their ranks, including the induction of the first female fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, Chhillar believes these milestones are now finding their rightful place within Indian cinema.

Wing Commander Ahana Gill, Chhillar’s character inspired by a real-life officer, is a testament to strength and determination. The real-life officer’s presence on set was a source of inspiration and authenticity for Chhillar as she stepped into the shoes of a woman who must make life-and-death decisions in split seconds. “My character has to make rational decisions, within milliseconds, that will determine whether her pilot will be alive or not,” she explains, hinting at the gravity of her role.

“Operation Valentine” serves as Chhillar’s second major film endeavor, following her debut in “Samrat Prithviraj” (2022). The movie’s take on the Armed Forces and its elevation of female roles within a typically male-dominated genre mark a significant evolution in the type of stories being told – stories that reflect the changing tides in a society that now sees women standing shoulder-to-shoulder with men, even in the most demanding of circumstances.

The actress exhibits a palpable sense of pride as she discusses her portrayal of Wing Commander Ahana Gill – a character who shatters the glass ceiling with her poise and skill, serving as a beacon of empowerment for women watching across the nation. As Chhillar observes, “Things are changing, and that is shown in our movies.”

As the film industry takes strides in mirroring the evolving roles of women in society, and specifically in the Armed Forces, “Operation Valentine” beckons audiences to witness a delineation of strength, valor, and deep-rooted camaraderie, set against the backdrop of pulsing action and the brave hearts that fuel it. Manushi Chhillar is undoubtedly poised to emerge as a figure of inspiration for many, redefining the essence of what it means to be a heroine in a modern-day war saga.

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