Tejas, the latest cinematic endeavour that appears to have been edited by a caffeinated squirrel, takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the skies and geopolitics. Directed by Sarvesh Mewara, it feels like he threw the kitchen sink at the screen, as the film encompasses battles, patriotic speeches (thankfully not chest-thumping kind), and a bit of Pakistan-bashing for good measure. (Also read: 12th Fail Review: Vikrant Massey delivers a superlative act in this pure and honest tale of success and failure)
The movie’s narrative is structured around a rescue mission deep within an outpost in Pakistan, reminiscent of the popular film Uri. The operation is meant to make the enemy look foolish, and it succeeds in creating moments of tension and anticipation.
The first half is a bit like an unruly hunk of footage, with scenes rushing past like commuters trying to catch the last train home. However, the film regains its composure in the second half when the action shifts to the battlefield. The aerial combat scenes in the climax are well-executed, maintaining a commendable tone that never veers into loud and jingoistic territory.
The protagonist, Tejas Gill, played by Kangana Ranaut, is a top-notch IAF pilot who thrives on danger. The film is so Tejas-centric that other characters orbit around her like satellites. The relationships are secondary to Tejas, who calls the shots with an intensity that could rival an espresso shot and consequences of those said actions are never really enforced, since she is, after all, the protagonist in the film.
The film’s portrayal of the Indian Air Force is a blend of reverence and dramatic license. It presents the IAF in a glorified light, emphasising the courage and dedication of its pilots. While this patriotic fervour adds to the film’s appeal, it occasionally borders on over-the-top jingoism.
While the almost two-hour-long film tries to steer away from Pakistan-bashing and focuses on the issue of terrorism, it occasionally stumbles into eye-roll territory, especially with a villain named ‘Sarqalam’ and a daring rescue operation designed to make the enemies look like fools.
The film makes an effort to introduce us to Tejas’s background and the supportive environment that nurtured her dream of becoming a pilot, but it skims over these elements, leaving us with a rather one-dimensional view of her character. We know she’s courageous and patriotic, but we yearn for more depth.
Additionally, the film’s soundtrack, though fitting for a movie centered around the Indian Air Force, can be overwhelming. The use of loud and eerie music during action sequences occasionally distracts from the narrative. The temptation to incorporate hard rock and metal tones, given the film’s theme, is understandable but could have been handled more subtly.
One curious aspect of the film is the repeated use of the name Tejas. The protagonist’s name is Tejas, she flies a Tejas aircraft, and the mission she embarks on is called “Tejas.” This abundance of “Tejas” in the film’s narrative feels forced and lacks organic cohesion. It’s as if the writers were either running out of time to brainstorm names or were under their SEO team’s pressure to pack the film with ‘Tejas’ keyword.
In the end, Tejas is a film that soars when it comes to action but painfully crashes when it attempts to navigate complex geopolitics. Kangana Ranaut as the titular character is earnest as a lady airforce pilot, occasionally having to prove her place in the Air Force or in the society as a free thinking independent and a brave woman, flanked perfectly both literally and metaphorically by Anshul Chauhan, who compliments Tejas’ courage and impulsiveness, with guile, patience and a bit of filmy drama.