TIRANGAA (1992)

Tirangaa is one of those films that once you see, you can never un-see. There will be a huge chunk of audiences who will hate it and loathe it. They will say that it is not cinema and also that it is obnoxiously mainstream and unapologetically commercial. But I ask this, what else we expected from the mainstream cinema of the 80s and 90s in Bollywood. Tirangaa, on the contrary, is one of the most unabashed and free-flowing mainstream films of the 90s that came in with a healthy dose of patriotism and good messages that most of the other films of that time chose to ignore completely.

Nana Patekar in a still from Tirangaa

The story revolves around Pralaynath Gundaswami (Deepak Shirke), one of the loudest and most on the face villains that you will ever come across and his masterplan to make India “Ghulam” (slaves) again. How he plans to do this is by building three missiles and naming them Pralay 1, Pralay 2, and Pralay 3 and then threatening to let them loose on the country. In order to make them, he kidnaps many scientists most of whom he kills and keeps only one who agrees to help him build his weapons of mass destruction. In the meantime, he also murders a police officer who constantly keeps meddling with his plans. It feels like an awkward thing to do for a villain of his stature but he does it. The abduction of the scientists gets the home minister into action who entrust the whole case to one man, Brigadier Surya Dev Singh (Raaj Kumar)

Raaj Kumar in a still from Tirangaa

Surya Dev Singh is a one-man army. He is an expert fighter, master strategist and above all he is invincible. Singh recruits the help of Shivajirao Waghle (Nana Patekar), an honest but hot-headed cop to help him track down Pralaynath and destroy his plans. There is also a subplot involving the son (played by Harish) of the police inspector that Pralaynath killed. Then there is the love interest of Shivajirao and his own personal vendetta against Pralaynath who had killed his mentor. If that was not enough, there is another subplot involving Rasik (Arjun), Pralaynath’s son, and the women in his life and how he puts the blame of the murders committed by him on Harish, the son of the cop that his father killed. Pralaynath sees a good chance to eliminate that one witness who had seen him commit the murder and uses his force to get a conviction against Harish and his friends. Need I say anything more?

Varsha Usgaonkar in a still from Tirangaa

Tirangaa is an over the top, vivacious and plain out of mind film that I liked very much as a kid and that I still don’t mind sitting through at any point of time. Why if you ask. Well to start with, the three primary characters of the film played by Raaj Kumar, Nana Patekar, and Deepak Shirke work. Raaj Kumar is not only charming but also heroic. Every time he is on the screen you cannot take your eyes off him. His dialog delivery, his mannerism, and his suave demeanor make you love the man. Exactly opposite to him is the character played by Nana. Even though he doesn’t have the kind of charm that Raaj Kumar does, his portrayal is a different ball game altogether. He is crazy, he shouts and he beats before he talks but that’s part of his charm. Nana gave it his all in this film. It is visible, particularly in the action sequences. Deepak Shirke, as the quintessential baddie, is terrific. He is almost funny but still makes enough impact for you to take him for what he is. He looks the part too. It’s surreal to think that his name was designed keeping in mind a joke that Raaj Kumar could crack on his name.

Deepak Shirke in a still from Tirangaa

Tirangaa has ballistic action sequences that have aged well. We have a lot of blowing up and being shredded by bullets. There is a lot of maiming too and then there is a “Kurbani death” that will make you roll with laughter in today’s time. But in those days, these kinds of sequences extracted a lot of wet handkerchiefs. The heroines in this film are there just for the song and dance routines. The only one who gets a little attention is Varsha Usgaonkar who plays Nana’s love interest. She does a good job. Not that it mattered how she fared. Tirangaa flows from one set piece to another only marginally perturbed by the many songs that were customary in those times. If they didn’t have the songs, this would be one of the tightest patriotic thrillers of the 90s. There is just one sequence, the so-called “Kurbani death” sequence that I mentioned above, that felt laughably unreal and funny. Apart from that, the rest of the film tries to border on the real but very often crosses the threshold. That’s always not a bad thing.

Tirangaa is a mindless entertainer. It has to be accepted as that and once you do so, it provides a whole lot of entertainment. The fact that it comes with some really good messages and ideas also makes it worth the time. I feel that the entertainment quotient and the performances were huge pluses for the film. This is a childhood favorite of mine and chances are some of you have rediscovered it on the cable network. If not, give this film a try.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Here is the link to the full film:

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