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Tejas: Don't Get IAF Wrong!

By Air Commodore NITIN SATHE (Retd)
Last updated on: November 02, 2023 12:04 IST
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'For god's sake, portray the armed forces in the correct manner,' asserts IAF veteran Air Commodore Nitin Sathe after watching Tejas.

IMAGE: Kangana Ranaut as Tejas Gill in Tejas.

A long time ago, while in service and on a visit to Bangalore, I had an opportunity of flying the Tejas simulator that I quite enjoyed. It had the state of the art systems and I looked forward to see the real aircraft join the IAF arsenal.

Today, along with the Rafale and the Su-30, the aircraft is operational, carrying out its task of guarding the Indian skies.

When I heard of the movie by the same name being released a few days ago, I was intrigued.

Had someone got down to making a film on how the aircraft was developed at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited?

Or was it some kind of war movie centred around the Tejas aka the Tom Cruise starrer Top Gun?

At the theatre, I was surprised to see just a handful who had turned up on a weekend to see Kangana Ranaut in uniform.

My antenna was now up; these days people flock to see the military in action and I wondered what was wrong. Tejas was only in its third day of release.

When people like me, who have been there and done that, watch something that relates to our bread and butter, we tend to become extra critical.

Like they say, doctors make worst patients! Having donned the blue uniform for many years, I decided to be patient and told myself to look at the film as a film and not be too critical.

IMAGE: Kangana Ranaut and Anshul Chauhan as Arfa in Tejas.

The movie is centred around the Tejas aircraft being flown by a fighter pilot Tejas Gill (Kangana) in an operation codenamed....Tejas, of course! This became clearer after the interval!

What foxed and bamboozled me was the opening scene of the movie. Kangana and her friend -- both fighter pilots -- are flying a helicopter on a rescue mission.

Kangana, unstraps herself from the seat (not done!) and goes down on the winch to pick up her colleague who has survived a Tejas crash on a remote island in the Andamans teeming with menacing tribals.

And while the helicopter sways from side to side, she winches them both up in a most unrealistic and bizzare scene, the angry tribals letting fly arrows at them.

The macho heroine, displaying more bravado, comes in between the arrows and the injured pilot, saving him further injury -- both of them landing up in hospital to recuperate.

IMAGE: Ashish Vidyarthi as IAF chief R K Panicker in Tejas.

Kangana and her co-pilot carry out this rescue despite their boss screaming over the radio not to land in the prohibited area.

For their act of 'indiscipline', the two pilots face an inquiry, which is quashed later since they volunteer to take on another mission impossible!

I squirmed in my seat due to the sheer audacity and absurdity of it all and felt like telling the audience that what they saw was 'asambhav' -- impossible and not true!

With a poor story line, writer-director Sarvesh Mewara seems to have struggled in stitching it all together, obviously leaving large gaps!

The movie is a khichidi difficult to digest. Come on Mr Director, you seem to have had no clear plan in mind.

Did not the veteran IAF officer you had on board tell you how wrong you were going when you depicted the military/war scenes?

You wanted a love story, an action thriller, a war movie and what else?

Unfortunately, the public doesn't get to enjoy any of it!

The critics have already flagged what ails this failed movie. So let me, an armed forces veteran, give you a 'debrief' purely on the military aspects which did not go down well.

  • The aircraft depicted are shabby and unreal. With Artificial Intelligence available, you could have done a better job of showing them flying in realistic machines.
  • The Chetak helicopter has to have an operator to operate the winch. What you showed was incorrect and impossible. Also, as a rule, fighter pilots do not fly helicopters and vice versa.
  • The would be fighter pilot undergoes flying training on the Pilatus-PC-7. She fails on the simulator, but goes solo, argues with the man in Air Traffic Control that she wants to fly longer. This is not the way we train, Mr Director!
  • The Chief of Air Staff doesn't sit alone in an ops room and plan a mission with a wing commander!
  • The fighter mission that was planned was downright improbable, impossible and stupid.
    How can you carry two fighters in fly-worthy condition inside a transport aircraft filled to the brim with load?
    And with load up to the ceiling of the transport aircraft hiding these fighters, how did you offload them on to the runway?
  • And then you decide on a sci-fi scene of shielding an aircraft with some technology which hasn't even been dreamt of?!
    Some kind of translucent plastic sheet across the runway to make them invisible?!
    My god! Where did you get this idea from?
  • The two lady fighter pilots walk across many miles in the desert to rescue the captured man and almost carry him back to the fighters parked on the runway.
    Don't tell me that Pakistani airfields allow people to go and come out of their operational areas without a problem?
    Are any military pilots anywhere in the world trained for such multi-skilled special operations?
    NO!! NO!!
  • Since you need to carry the extra man back, one of the fighters quickly becomes a trainer with two cockpits.
    The lady fighter pilots walk miles into the desert to get their man back fighting with a crowd of terrorists, using explosives that were carried in boxes....but how?
  • Now about the scenes after the fighters get airborne after the rescue from Pakistan... How did they get the armament loaded?
    The fights shown are unreal and impractical. These could have been better picturised with help of computer simulation and actual shots from the cockpit of the fighter in flight.
    Fighters don't fly and fight the way you depicted these days. Dog-fights are history.
  • The pilots do not speak to all and sundry during missions. They need to concentrate on their flying task at hand rather than getting briefed on about how the ground forces are taking down terrorists who are threatening to blow up a Hindu temple.
  • For god's sake, portray the armed forces in the correct manner and don't give wrong ideas to the public that this is the way we go about doing our jobs.

In short, an unwatchable film on all counts.

A helicopter pilot who served the IAF for 35 years, IAF Veteran Air Commodore Nitin Sathe is a frequent contributor to and you can read his earlier articles here.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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Air Commodore NITIN SATHE (Retd)