For decades, Hindi war films have been synonymous with epic sagas, often characterized by unbearably long runtimes. However, Kangana Ranaut’s latest venture, “Tejas,” directed by debutante director Sarvesh Mewara, defies this norm by clocking in at slightly less than two hours. While the briskness is a welcome change, it comes at a cost, leaving the film feeling somewhat rushed and incomplete, akin to reducing a life to a mere list of facts.
“Tejas” revolves around its eponymous lead protagonist, Tejas Gill, portrayed by Kangana Ranaut. Her father is associated with the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and is part of the team responsible for developing the single-engine multi-role combat aircraft named Tejas. The film’s title is omnipresent, as the aircraft becomes the symbol of valor and patriotism throughout the narrative. Even the daring mission that Tejas leads into enemy territory is aptly named “Mission Tejas.” Read more: Tejas Trailer ft. Kangana Ranaut
The story kicks off with Wing Commander Tejas and her piloting partner Afia, played by Anshul Chauhan, embarking on a mission to rescue a kidnapped civil servant from an aboriginal island. A maverick pilot, doesn’t always follow orders and prefers to chart her own path. The film takes the audience on a two-hour journey to unveil the backstory of our protagonist, a woman whose family has fallen victim to terror attacks and whose mission in life is to eradicate terrorism. Tejas possesses the skills of a spy, able to decipher clues provided by an Indian spy through terrorist propaganda videos.
The antagonists in the film are not just the terrorists but also Pakistani officials who appear inefficient and leave their military airports inadequately guarded. The Indian Air Force’s assistance, represented by Tejas, is crucial in safeguarding the nation’s security, exemplified by the planned attack on the recently constructed Ram temple in Ayodhya. Sarvesh Mewara subtly touches on the gender divide in the frontlines, as Tejas conveys the message to Afia, “Agar hum iss mission mein successful hue toh agli baar koi yeh nahi kahega ki ladkon ko bhejna chahiye tha” (If we succeed in this mission, no one will say that boys should have been sent next time). However, these elements fail to strike a chord effectively.
“Tejas” often feels disjointed, as it rushes from one scene to the next, resulting in a 118-minute movie that appears to have been stitched together from a haphazard collection of footage. Mewara attempts to pack everything into the film, including aerial and ground battles, patriotic sentiments (thankfully not overly chest-thumping), and some Pakistan-centric elements. The movie gains momentum in the second half when the action shifts to the battlefield, with the aerial combat scenes in the climax being particularly well-executed. The film maintains a steady tone throughout, avoiding loud and jingoistic nationalism.
Kangana Ranaut’s performance as Tejas is commendable. She delivers a powerhouse portrayal, effortlessly carrying the entire film on her capable shoulders. Her performance shines in action sequences, as she flawlessly transitions between portraying rage and vulnerability. Tejas is more than just another feather in Kangana’s illustrious cap.
Despite the strong performances, the film’s silver lining is overshadowed by its shortcomings. The rushed pace and fragmented storytelling prevent “Tejas” from reaching greater heights.