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Kangana good, but fighter pilot story nosedives

The light combat aircraft Tejas was inducted in 2003. The name ‘Tejas’ was chosen by late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2016, the Indian Air Force welcomed women into combat positions. Director Sarvesh Mewar Mewar throws in women’s empowerment, nationalism, politics and revenge into his debut film. The result is an unconvincing plot and a weak screenplay.

The film tells the story of Tejas Gill, who dreams of flying an aircraft. She manages to realise her dream, thanks to her supportive father. The death of her parents in a terror attack leaves her devastated, and she is determined to serve the nation. She grows in a male-dominated society, and is the final choice to spearhead operations.

The film starts off with Tejas and her piloting partner Afia (Anshul Chauhan) rescuing a kidnapped civil servant from an island, and ends with an attempt by a terrorist group to strike at the Ram Mandir.

Songs that pop up every five minutes in the first half affect the pace of the storytelling. The snatch-and-grab operation glues the audience to their seats in the second half. Cinematographer Hari K Vedantam elevates the drama with his work. Shots of airstrikes, stunts and flights in the desert are visually impressive.Shashwat Sachdev’s music merits attention. Kangana easily slips into the role of Tejas and Anshul Chauhan impresses. The film is low on logic, and its inconsistencies are jarring. Its attempts to promote nationalistic feelings fall flat. Flaws in characterisation are glaring–the antagonists are reduced to nothing as the director tries to elevate the protagonist.

Tejas’ character, despite her remarkable accomplishments, lacks the vulnerability that makes cinematic heroes more relatable. Tejas’ boyfriend Ekveer (Varun Mitra) gets little screen time.

Mewar lets go of an opportunity to create an ode to Tejas and female pilots. The film may only appeal to Kangana’s die-hard fans.

(Published 27 October 2023, 21:20 IST)

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