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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Tejas: Kangana Ranaut’s aerial action thriller crash-lands after take off

Sarvesh Mewara’s debut film feels like a poorly assembled montage of Insta reels and WhatsApp forwards showcasing ‘New India’

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 28.10.23, 12:24 PM
Kangana Ranaut in Tejas

Kangana Ranaut in Tejas Twitter

Warrior queen Kangana Ranaut is back in the theatres – this time in the cockpit of a light combat aircraft. Unfortunately, Tejas the movie, unlike the aircraft it’s named after, crash-lands immediately after take off. Helmed by debutant Sarvesh Mewara and produced by the team behind Uri: The Surgical Strike, Tejas ends up feeling like a poorly assembled montage of Instagram reels and WhatsApp forwards showcasing ‘New India’.

Kangana Ranaut plays Wing Commander Tejas Gill, named after the light combat aircraft itself. She is tasked with a mission to rescue an Indian spy from the clutches of fanatic Islamists. Tejas is a film that unapologetically revolves around its lead character. Tejas Gill excels at everything from flying fighter jets to taking down eve-teasers at a concert.

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The story begins with Tejas embarking on a mission (despite orders to the contrary from higher authorities) with her co-pilot Afiya (Anshul Chauhan) to save an Air Force officer stranded on a forbidden island, guarded by tribals. She successfully carries out a daring rescue, even surviving an attack by the Sentinelese tribe. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie — an omnipresent Kangana Ranaut in multiple avatars, holding centre stage from start to finish, a shade under two hours.

The film quickly shifts to a high-stakes mission, as Tejas sets off to rescue an Indian spy held hostage in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The name of the mission? Operation Tejas, of course.

As if that high-octane rescue mission isn’t enough, our Tejas also thwarts a bomb attack on the Ram Mandir by extremists hiding in a milk truck.

However, the makers forget to answer a vital question – who is Tejas Gill? Unlike the backstory in the more nuanced Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, which was also about a woman air force pilot, here we are simply told that Tejas decided to become a fighter pilot after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee named India’s fighter aircraft Tejas. Her days in the Air Force academy are depicted in flashback, only to highlight her exceptional intelligence and unwavering confidence.

Additionally, the film’s antagonists are disappointingly weak – stereotypical Islamic terrorists, who pose no significant challenge to our wonder woman.

Kangana Ranaut’s performance, sadly, lacks consistency. She parrots her lines and seems more focused on her appearance in the cockpit than delivering thrills. Her one-liners about selfless service to the nation, women’s empowerment, etc. etc. feel forced and preachy. Anshul Chauhan as her co-pilot, delivers a more lively performance in her limited screen time.

So, what ails Kangana ‘Queen’ Ranaut? In Tejas, just like in most of her recent ventures, Kangana appears to be burdened by the film’s shortcomings and the obsession to do it all herself.

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