The Hindi movie Fighter is directed by Siddharth Anand and stars Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Anil Kapoor, Karan Singh Grover, Akshay Oberoi, Rishabh Sawhney
In the ultra-high nationalistic fervor currently obtaining in India, a film like Fighter, which is about the brave exploits of a team of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots, can play out only on certain predictable lines. In that sense, Fighter offers no real surprise. And the action scenes — the film is billed as India’s first aerial action film — are indeed interesting and exciting.
But the audiences weaned on the Top Gun franchise are not exactly new to such bravura fight set-pieces. In the event, what helps Fighter work really are the emotional bonding and the winsome camaraderie of the battle-fit military personnel and their warm back stories. The personal story arc of the pivotal characters specifically helps the second half. Talking of which, the main leads, Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, look great in the fighter pilot fatigues and deliver a performance that does not strain your credulity.
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Hrithik is not new to the territory. With films like Lakshya (2004) and War (2019), Hrithik knows what it is to be a military person. If in those films, he was Captain Karan Shergill and Major Kabir Dhaliwal, respectively, here he is Shamsher Pathania, aka Patty, a charmer of a fighter pilot. In his special unit named Air Dragons, his associate is Squadron Leader Minal Rathore alias Minni (Deepika). The team, which is commanded by Rakesh Jai Singh, aka Rocky (Anil Kapoor), also has Taj (Karan Singh Grover) and Basheer Khan (Akshay Oberoi) as impressive team members. The last name is the equivalent of a Black commando in a white American army unit. The Muslim character to spout patriotic lines and to be seen as politically correct.
The film does not spell out openly the recent skirmishes and major incidents between the inimical India and Pakistan, but it clearly takes off from the Pulwama attack and India’s subsequent retaliatory air strikes at Balakot. The director, Siddharth Anand, who is by now a specialist in this type of military action adventure, mounts the film in his typical way.
The jingoism and the attendant spirit are amped up, and the enemy country is spelt out and portrayed in a not surprising, unflattering light. Again, this is par for the course. But it does make the adrenaline pump furiously in the air combat scenes. Siddharth also mixes the emotional scenes between the action jousts to break the monotony. The film also strikes a blow for women’s empowerment as Deepika’s Minni holds her own in what is seen as a man’s world. The way Samsher bats for Minni with her own parents (Geeta Agrawal and Ashutosh Rana) provides the film with one of its warmest and most wow moments.
Both Hrithik and Deepika look terrific in a physical sense and elevate the fighter pilot role admirably. There is also an easy chemistry between the two. Otherwise, they have nothing much to do. In a film like this, the acting scope is bound to be limited. And it is okay.
The film’s pacing and length are not an issue. High on flighty action, the film’s problem is it is otherwise plane. We meant plain, but you know that.
Where can you watch Fighter in the UAE?
Fighter is was set to release in the UAE on Thursday Jan 25, but it has been removed from cinema websites. Home Screen Entertainment, the film’s distributor, said Fighter‘s release had been “suspended”.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.