October 24, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Ribhu Dasgupta
Hindi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in India, Turkey, Jordan and Afghanistan, the action film “Code Name: Tiranga” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.
Culture Clash: A spy has to choose between loyalty to the man she’s fallen in love with and loyalty to the Indian government, which has sent her on a mission to capture an international terrorist.
Culture Audience: “Code Name: Tiranga” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching unrealistic action movies with silly storylines.
“Code Name: Tiranga” should have been titled “Code Name: Terrible.” That’s the best way to describe this insipid action movie that’s filled with unrealistic fight scenes, subpar acting and grossly moronic plot developments. This is the type of action flick that can make some basic video games look like masterpieces in comparison. And it’s yet another sexist movie about a female spy who’s written as someone who needs to sexually seduce at least one man in order to accomplish her goals.
Written and directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, “Code Name: Tiranga” takes places in various countries, as the protagonist Durga Devi Singh (played by Parineeti Chopra), a special ops spy for the Indian government, scurries around like a spy with no coherent plan, except to go from location to location and shoot a bunch of people. In some of these shootouts, Durga is the only person who’s up against at least 12 other armed opponents in the same location. But somehow, unbelievably, she’s able to take all of them down. Does she get wounded? Yes, occasionally. But when she does get shot, she makes a quick recovery that’s so unrealistic, even a child can see how phony everything is.
In the beginning of “Code Name: Tiranga” Durga goes undercover as a journalist named Ismat, to meet and seduce Dr. Mirza Ali (played by Harrdy Sandhu), a medical doctor of Indian heritage who is currently a Turkish citizen working for the United Nations. Mirza is visiting India but will be returning to Turkey soon. Soon after Mirza meets Durga/Ismat, they begin dating, and he tells her that he dreams of opening his own clinic to help refugees.
Why is Durga targeting Mirza for her seduction scheme? She’s been told by her superiors that Mirza has been invited to a wedding that is expected to be attended by their main target: a ruthless international terrorist named Khalid Omar (played by Sharad Kelkar), who has eluded capture for years. (Yes, this part of the movie’s plot is as stupid as it sounds.) Durga’s immediate supervisor is Ajay Bakshi (played by Dibyendu Bhattacharya), who doesn’t do much but show up unexpectedly in certain places and tell Durga what to do.
Mirza, who only knows Durga as Ismat, falls in love with her. And the feeling is mutual with Durga/Ismat, who feels guilty that she has lied to Mirza about her true identity. That doesn’t stop her from marrying Mirza two months after they started dating. This whirlwind courtship is presented in a very superficial way in “Code Name: Tiranga.” The movie never shows the wedding of Mirza and Durga/Ismat. It’s briefly explained that they eloped.
Of course, a spy who is expected to go on deadly missions on short notice can’t keep up this charade forever of being a journalist wife of a doctor. “Code Name: Tiranga” is so inept, the movie never really explains why Durga had to get married to Mirza under her fake identity, in order to be invited to a wedding where she was supposed to capture a terrorist. It just makes Durga look like an idiot, and it makes her betrayal of Mirza even worse than it could have been.
“Code Name: Tiranga” then turns into a turgid soap opera about Durga’s inner conflict of whether or not she should be loyal to Mirza or loyal to the Indian government. The movie’s shootouts and other fight scenes are mind-numbingly stupid, while the visual effects are tacky and cheap-looking. It should come as no surprise that Mirza is eventually put in harm’s way. And there’s another betrayal that’s revealed toward the end of the movie that’s very easy to predict.
“Code Name: Tiranga” tries desperately to look like it’s a female empowerment film because the protagonist is a woman spy. But it’s not female empowerment just because you put a gun in a woman’s hand, and you show her being able to win a fight against several men. Female empowerment for a woman protagonist also has to do with her intelligence and how she moves in a world where women are frequently not treated as equals to men.
In that regard, “Code Name: Tiranga” comes up very short, because it uses the tired old movie concept that a woman spy can’t possibly accomplish anything meaningful without having sex with one of her targets and/or with a work colleague. Male spies in movies almost never have their accomplishments dependent on who their sex partners are. And even the way that the “romance” is handled in “Code Name: Tiranga” ensures that Durga will be the one who’s punished for her decisions. “Code Name: Tiranga” is pretending to be pro-female, but it’s just a witless, boring and misogynistic film that does not deserve anyone’s time or money.
T-Series Films and Reliance Entertainment released “Code Name: Tiranga” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on October 14, 2022.