Director and writer: Ribhu Dasgupta
Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Sharad Kelkar, Harrdy Sandhu, Rajit Kapur, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Shishir Sharma, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, and Deesh Mariwala
Imagine a hijab-clad Indian espionage agent who is also a killing machine. Imagine a scene where you can just see her intense kohl-lined eyes as she tackles multiple gun-toting massively built men… as she lands a kick, the drape of her black hijab blows in the wind creating a vivid visual on the backdrop of an ochre desert landscape. Stunning, right? A lady commando, a Muslim heroine, an Indian superhero-like character who can join forces with Soorayah Qadir and Kamala Khan in the Marvel universe…
But, this is Bollywood. So, the real name of Ismat is Durga. Because you don’t want to kick the hornet’s nest. In India, Durga is today definitely a safer bet than Ismat (the film also adds a Muslim antagonist named Khalid Omar who is at times called Omar Khalid). And instead of a thriller with a kickass female protagonist like Kill Bill or Anna or La Femme Nikita or a Lady Snowblood what we have is a spiritual sequel of Dhaakad that nobody had asked for or had anticipated.
Code Name Tiranga is about…well that is the million-dollar question I am still trying to find an answer to.
Durga is an undercover agent who is part of a special ops team on a mission code-named Tiranga (of course) to hunt down Khalid Omar (Sharad Kelkar) who was apparently the mastermind of the Parliament blast in India. She follows him to Afghanistan, poses as Ismat, and finds the cute half-Turkish and half-Indian doctor Mirza (Harrdy Sandhu) who works with the UN. He is her entry ticket to a wedding Khalid Omar is scheduled to attend. However, things don’t go as planned. It is suspected that the team has a mole. Durga is now supposed to kill the mole. For this, she lands in Turkey and walks right inside the terrorist’s citadel (don’t ask why she didn’t do this earlier to kill Khalid instead of wasting time pretending to fall in love, deceiving a guy, getting married to him, waiting for lady luck to smile and arrange for a gathering where Khalid would turn up. Also, why killing a mole is more important than killing a dreaded terrorist? I did warn you that this movie is not about making sense of things. Here logic, intelligence, reason, and other such mundane things are carefully drained out through the strainer of a script). Again, she fails.
Apparently, she is the best in the business, the sharpest commando of India’s external intelligence agency, RAW (the Research and Analysis Wing should actually take offense with this kind of a portrayal), but in the first two missions, she just manages to mostly kill civilians while her actual targets escape. At one point, you actually get confused about who is more incompetent, Durga Or Ribhu Dasgupta, her creator? Such questions keep cropping up throughout the movie at regular intervals. But the most important one among those is WHY was this film made?
Going back to the story (that never was). As collateral damages pile up, to balance it out, Khalid bumps off Mirza (the main job of a love interest of a spy agent in Bollywood is to look pretty, get abducted, and get killed. Mirza serves the purpose and then promptly goes up in flames…you wish the script of the film had the same fate before this assault of a film was unleashed on the audience). Oh, and there are a few other characters. Dibyendu Bhattacharya plays Durga’s handler who loves walky-talkies, Rajit Kapur is her colleague in Turkey whose main job seems to be driving her around, and Shishir Sharma is a Pakistani official. The parallels with Raazi, where Kapur played Hidayat Khan, an Indian, and Sharma played the Parvez Syed of the Pakistan Army, and the rhyming names of Ismat and Shehmat, are difficult to ignore. But then one can find parallels with movies like Ek Tha Tiger, Tiger Zinda Hai, Naam Shabana, Baby, etc, and also with PubG. The film tries to be many things but fails remarkably in all and even at being a proper film.
Parineeti packs a punch, and she looks fit but you don’t know whether the credit for those cool hand-to-hand combat scenes and fight sequences should go to her or her stunt double Quy Truong. But no one can take away the glory of those hamming bits from her (she randomly starts to smoke in one scene making a face you see in those Western movies). Punjabi singer and actor, Harrdy Sandhu last seen in Kabir Khan’s 83, does a decent job a Mirza. Sharad Kelkar is usually good and, as the Muslim terrorist stereotype, does his job well. But he hardly gets much of the ‘job’. Rajit Kapur, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Shishir Sharma, and Deesh Mariwala all do their bits but none of these characters are well fleshed out and hence, the acting is also mostly flat. I have no clue why an actor like Sabyasachi Chakraborty even agreed to do this extended cameo.
‘Empowering women’ and ‘letting them’ kick some ass is one thing (for that you can start karate or a Krav Maga or a kickboxing class) but to make a movie you need very different skill sets. Code Name: Tiranga looks like a (very long) reel promoting a martial arts class.
Most of the scenes don’t make any sense. There is a sequence where Parineeti traces the way back to his captors just by the street noises while blindfolding herself because her abductors had blindfolded her while carrying her to their boss and she remembers the street noises. Now, I have no clue how the streets would have the exact same noisescape, especially given that she was abducted at night and she is trying to retrace the journey when it’s day. Maybe it is her superpower. In another scene, she is seen talking on a phone, standing in the open (knowing that a most-wanted terrorist is out to get her), far from her handler. She is in a valley where there is pin-drop silence. A cavalcade of cars arrives but she can’t hear the sounds of those heavy SUVs. Selective superpower I guess. But then such instances are so many, it seems like a fool’s errand to find logic in this madness.
There are potholes on streets and bits of ‘streetlets’ strewn between potholes. The plot-holed script of this film is like that street or a fishing net with just loopholes stitched together. Ribhu Dasgupta, the writer-director has left no stone unturned to weed out every possible redeeming factor from this script. Let’s not even get started with the tonal shifts, lack of continuity, etc. Also, I really don’t understand Dasgupta’s obsession with Parineeti’s bruised face (he was also the man behind The Girl on the Train). Talking about bruises, in fact, the movie can be summarized in two words–‘ghaavo ka guchcha’–words Durga uses to describe her life.
Tribhuvan Babu Sadineni’s top-notch camerawork makes every frame look sleek. Action choreography by Yannick Ben is pretty good. The Vande Mataram rendition sung by Shankar Mahadevan is rather good but its impact gets lost amid the random on-screen goings on. In fact, the song is wasted in a film like this. Sangeeth Varghese’s editing could have been better. Gilad Benamram’s music is ok.
Most female actors can only dream of being in an action movie as the protagonist and kicking some male butts. But a movie should not be a heroine’s wish-fulfillment project. Code Name Tiranga seems to be exactly that. Parineeti Chopra teams up with her The Girl on the Train director once again, and the result is even worse this time with Dasgupta proving once again his lack of grasp over the craft of filmmaking as well as scriptwriting. The worst thing for any artiste is overconfidence and the echo chambers that thwart the much-needed reality checks.
Go for it if you really want to spend some alone time (not everyone is brave enough like you, theatres would be mostly empty) chilling (check the AC) on a sofa of a movie theatre. In that case, don’t forget to carry noise-cancelling earphones.
Avoid if you don’t have noise-cancelling earphones.
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