Tejas: Kangana saves this flight from crash-landing!

Kangana Ranaut plays the title-role in Tejas. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

I wonder what made Ronnie Screwvala think of producing this shallow drama of patriotism after making a quasi-masterpiece of a real story in URI—The Surgical Strike?  Kangana Ranaut’s involved performance saves this film from crash-landing, because the film is a somewhat messy mélange of the past (26/11!), present (a new India retaliating by attacking terrorist bases) and even future (a potential blast at the opening of the temple at Ram Janmaboomi!).

Admittedly, the Tejas aircraft really exists and is the pride of the Indian Air Force. And Tejas is a gender-neutral name is common among Punjabis. And yes, the film has its heart in the right place. But when you make films on fighter pilots, you can either get it right, as in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl or go woefully wrong, as in Bhuj: The Pride of India. So the art too has to be in the right place!

This film gets the technical aspects of fighting terrorism correct, it does have some gripping moments and a striking post-climax that almost undoes the regretful glitches and absurdities in the script. But by then, the film makes you continually dwell on how the script could have been designed better than merely trying to drown viewers with a shower of (often plastic) emotions.

Instead, along with a better-conceived storyline, it could have expressed what it actually wanted to do—show how the female of the species (armed forces) can be as good as the male, and how courage and daredevilry is all-encompassing  when the nation’s honor and integrity is at stake. Tejas admits that her agenda in fighting extremists is non-negotiable and personal, and for this bold statement, we can almost excuse the pitfalls in the narrative! If every Indian thought that way, terrorism will take a killing blow.

Tejas has had her entire family (parents, kid brother and boyfriend) wiped out in the 26/11 terror attack on a Mumbai café. Nevertheless, very doughtily, she trains and becomes one of the aces in her squadron. She will stop at nothing for her nation, even as she mouths several clichés at intervals. Along with her loyal and astute comrade, Arfa (a Muslim was necessary for obvious reasons), played sweetly and skillfully by Anshul Chauhan, she sets examples and finally plays a kind of detective and convinces the leadership of a way to rescue a kidnapped colleague, Prashant (Vishak Nair), who will be killed by notorious terrorist Sarqalam (Rohed Khan) in Pakistan on the coming weekend.

After he is rescued, Prashant reveals that there is a bigger plot—to blast the Ram Janmabhoomi temple on its opening day. And this is masterminded by Khatooni (Mushtaq Kak), a man responsible for many subversive attacks in India. The plot is scuttled back home (logic is stretched to the limit in the way this is shown happening in the few minutes Tejas is flying back!!), but Tejas, who is still flying the Tejas aircraft in Pakistan and heading home, now decides with due sanction to eliminate Khatooni as well.

Technically, the film is neat, even though it has a needlessly overloud background score by Shashwat Sachdev. Shashwat’s songs are best not mentioned for their cacophony besides the Punjabi excess as usual (when will we bring back Hindi and Urdu to film music???!!!). They are heard now and forgotten moments later.

The supporting cast does a fine job: Ashish Vidyarthi as the IAF chief and Rio Kapadia as the head of RAW give accomplished performances in particular. Varun Mitra as Tejas’ boyfriend is alright.

Wish the names behind the film had put in solid work on the ‘flight’ of the movie when they had liberty as fiction makers and were not bound by real facts.

Rating: **1/2

RSVP’s Tejas  Produced by: Ronnie Screwvala Written & Directed by: Sarvesh Mewara  Music: Shashwat Sachdev Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Anshul Chauhan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rio Kapadia, Varun Mitra, Vishak Nair, Kashyap Shangari, Sunit Tandon, Mohan Agashe, Mushtaq Kak, Rohed Khan & others






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