Was Tirangaa a patriotic parody?

Why Mehul Kumar’s film turned out to be the most hilarious patriotic film ever

Mayur Lookhar

The early 1990s was when popular Hindi cinema exposed corruption, making the police, politicians, judiciary and administration its favourite whipping boys. Director Mehul Kumar joined in the bashing with his patriotic Tirangaa, which was released three days after Republic Day 1993. It was a blockbuster that grew in popularity after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, when one of the cinema halls (Plaza, in central Mumbai) where it was playing was also bombed.

While we are sure Kumar carried the Tricolour in his heart, Tirangaa turned out to be a patriotic parody. If there were awards for hamming, this film would certainly be a top contender. Here are some of the sequences that made it a laugh riot.

1. Pralayanath Goonda/Gendaswamy

With destruction in his name, Pralayanath Goondaswamy (Deepak Shirke), who is addressed as Gendaswamy by Brigadier Suryadev Singh (Raaj Kumar), is out to destroy the country with his planned missile attack. So he abducts three noted scientists and kills two while terrorising the third (Ranga Swami) into making his missiles. Well, they look more like toys than missiles.

Goondaswamy is given arms by Bollywood’s favourite gibberish-speaking evil white men — Bob Christo and Gavin Packard (how did poor Tom Alter miss out?). While his evil designs are clear, one is never sure where Goondaswamy’s allegiance lies. What exactly is his problem with the nation?

During the climax, Goondaswamy reveals how his missiles will destroy the north, east and west of India. One assumes he hails from the south and so decided to spare it.

2.  Martyrdom for Suresh Oberoi, again

Poor Suresh Oberoi is often killed off in his films. Pralayanath Goondaswamy eliminates the only thorn in his flesh. What makes this murder hilarious is that Goondswamy kills DIG Chauhan (Oberoi) while riding a horse and wearing a helmet. You have to see the scene to believe it.

3. Angry young Nana Patekar

If Hollywood is looking for someone to dub in Hindi for the Angry Birds movie, it needn’t look beyond Nana Patekar. Patekar had earned a reputation for his angry outbursts in films like Ankush (1986) and Parinda (1989). He was the quintessential angry young man who never shied away from venting his frustration at the corrupt. With Tirangaa, he took his rage to a hilarious new level as Inspector Shivajirao Waghle.

He loses his temper when the corrupt minister sheds crocodile tears at DIG Chauhan’s funeral and gives him a mouthful, while daring his boss Satyavadi Mishra (Sujit Kumar) to fire him.

If this is not enough, Waghle doesn’t hesitate to mock the judiciary at a biased hearing. The highlight of this scene is how he warns a constable to arrest him only if he has never taken a bribe in his life. Remarkably, the constable retreats in the presence of the judge.

4. One-man army Brigadier Suryadev Singh

With DIG Chauhan eliminated, the government needs a hero to fight the evil Goondaswamy. In comes Brigadier Suryadev Singh. The late Raaj Kumar made a name for himself as the cravat-wearing, pipe-smoking, proverb-muttering, uber-cool crusader. He doesn't disappoint here either. Watch out for the stellar introduction of Singh for never before has a hero been introduced with the villain watching tales of his heroics in a theatre.

5. Brigadier and Waghle's eye of the tiger

Military men are good at sports, but we didn’t know they could hit bull’s eye even after gulping down several jars of whisky. From firing darts to spraying alcohol on bare chests, the track ‘Peele Peele O Mere Raja’ is one hilarious ride.

6. The mystery of Harish’s purse

Pralayanath and his goons embroil Sanjay Chauhan (Harish) and his friends in a false case of rape and murder. At the hearing, the public prosecutor mentions how it is no coincidence that Sanjay Chauhan's ‘purse’ was retrieved near the victim’s body. This error is repeated again as Waghle defends the innocents. One assumes the word wallet didn’t exist in Bollywood’s lexicon then.

7. Rakesh Bedi, obsessed with the news

One of the most fascinating characters of Tirangaa is Khabrilal, the ever vigilant informer of Suryadev Singh. As an informer, one ought to maintain secrecy, but we salute the creative genius of Mehul Kumar who had his Khabrilal mutter like a Doordarshan anchor presenting the news. Poor Khabrilal's days of informing come to an untimely end when he is gunned down by Pralayanath’s man. Staying true to his character, Khabrilal doesn’t breathe his last before signing off in his inimitable style, “Khabrilal ke antim samachar samapth huey (Khabrilal’s final bulletin comes to an end)", Jai Hind!

8. A missile without a fuse conductor

We don’t understand the science behind nuclear missiles, but a ‘fuse conductor’ in layman’s terms is a little device used to light up your bulbs. If you take out the fuse from an electronic device, would it work?

Pralayanath manages to disarm Waghle, Brigadier Suryadev Singh and his army, then orders his captive scientist to launch the three missiles. At this juncture, the brigadier feels the need to light up his pipe. The baddie isn’t impressed; he pulls the pipe from the brigadier’s mouth and throws it away. Suddenly, there is smoke all around and, a minute later, the brigadier reveals that while everyone was blinded, he took out the fuses from the missiles. Poor Pralayanath, what a waste of a million rupees.