Tejas review: an overly patriotic tale with a plodding plot and profuse seriousness
Patriotism is the underlying reason for most of the choices that the protagonist makes in the film, thus creating a serious atmosphere of overwhelming goodness and overdone platitudes.
Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Ashish Vidyarthi, Anshul Chauhan, Varun Mitra
Some films look to ignite patriotic fervour through heightened stories about India’s armed forces. While this approach has given us gripping films with magnetic protagonists, such as Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) by Aditya Dhar, Kangana Ranaut starrer Tejas fails to deliver the desired effect.
The film features a convincing performance by Ranaut, and her ability to make a female character close to real is evident, as is her effort to train and become a fighter pilot. However, the film falters with its excessively serious and predictable narrative.
Touted as India’s first aerial action film, Tejas should have had greater kicks and dramatic turns. Instead, the film–loaded with determined patriotism around India’s armed forces–is stolid and lacklustre.
Wing Commander Tejas Gill (Ranaut) is a gifted Air Force pilot who is intent on flying jets even before she completes her training. Fuelled by her love for the country since childhood and her resolve to fly an aircraft with whom she shares her name, Gill is always ready to challenge rules and norms. Despite her taut and serious demeanour, she finds a boyfriend in singer Ekveer (Varun Mitra).
Ashish Vidyarthi, who plays Gill's boss, has complete faith in her patriotism and brilliance.
In a strange interpretation of ground reality, Gill gets away with disobeying an order–this belittles the credibility of the Indian Air Force, which is bound to have a stricter code of professional conduct.
When an Indian engineer, who is actually a spy, is kidnapped and threatened with death by a Pashtun terrorist leader in rural Pakistan, Gill wants to rescue him. Alongside woman co-pilot Afia (Anshul Chauhan), Gill is assigned to carry out this mission right into the heart of enemy territory. She is not just daring but is also smart enough–given that she is the heroine–to spot clues that the Indian intelligence might have missed.
Then the story meanders through interwoven plot points to build up the unmeasured hard work and courage that India’s integrated defence forces and intelligence show. A huge terror threat to an Indian place of worship is discovered in the second half. The rest of the film is about coming back home after a successful mission.
As far as plots go, this one loses its grip over the viewers.
A story about the functioning of armed forces (the Indian Air Force here), in an environment marked by risks and national security threats, should ideally hold your attention throughout. But the proceedings in Tejas, particularly in the second half, feel predictable. The reference to ‘Bharat’, instead of India, seems deliberate and not subtle enough to translate to actual change in thinking.
Of course, the idea of two women fighter pilots tackling a perilous mission in enemy territory is progressive, especially when it features a popular movie star in the lead. It is also interesting that Gill never comes across as second to any male counterpart, although the film doesn’t explore the vocal debate on gender discrimination in India’s armed forces.
In the special effects department, Tejas fares better than some of the bigger budget Hindi films. But Sarvesh Mewara’s writing slows down the story; at times, he has over-stuffed it with details that don’t necessarily add value to the plot.
The film positions Ranaut as a strong protagonist. Her performance is solid, and her ability to don the role of a fighter pilot is convincing. But her character could have had touches of lighter moments and humane elements.
Chauhan brings a touch of cheer, while Vidyarthi is bankable.
In summary, patriotism is the underlying reason for most of the choices that the protagonist makes, thus creating a boring atmosphere of overwhelming goodness and overdone platitudes.
Mission Tejas might have been an engaging ride had it been a tad less serious and more thrilling.
Edited by Swetha Kannan