CultureCinema ‘Fighter’ Review: Navigating The Plot’s Prosaic Terrain

‘Fighter’ Review: Navigating The Plot’s Prosaic Terrain

Adding itself to the long list of recent propaganda films in India, 'Fighter', directed by Siddharth Anand, is about Indian Air Force Pilots and their mission.

Fighter attempts to depict the mystery of the Indian Air Force through realistic dramatisation, impressive action scenes, and cinematography. However, the storyline lacks originality and seems ordinary. Adding itself to the long list of recent propaganda films promoting hypernationalism in India, the film Fighter, directed by Siddharth Anand, is about Indian Air Force Pilots and their mission. It explores themes of patriotism, teamwork, brotherhood, and love for their profession. The film has impressive cinematography and action scenes, but it lacks originality and fails to bring something new to the franchise. Despite its excellent aerial action, the film falls into the cliché storyline of Bollywood’s jingoism. This article delves into the plot and its impact on the overall film.

Plot of Fighter 

Siddharth Anand is the director of the recent Indian action film Fighter, which he co-wrote with Ramon Chibb. The film stars Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, and Anil Kapoor, and is produced by Viacom18 Studios and Marflix Pictures. The film references real-life events such as the Balakot airstrike, the Pulwama attack, and border clashes between India and Pakistan in 2019. The plot revolves around a terrorist group called Guruvadi, led by Azhar Akhtar, planning to attack India in Srinagar, Kashmir. The Ground Captain, Rakesh Jai Singh, ‘Rocky’, (Anil Kapoor) assembles a team of skilled fighter pilots known as the Air Dragons to counter the threat. The squad consists of Squadron Leaders Minal Rathore, ‘Minni’, (Deepika Padukone), Basheer Khan, ‘Bash’,(Akshay Oberoi) and Shamsher Pathania, ‘Patty’ (Hrithik Roshan).

'Fighter' review
Source: IMDb

During training, the team members become close and Minni starts to develop feelings for Patty. However, Patty carries emotional baggage from losing his fiancée in a previous mission. The group learns about an attack organised by Akhtar on CRPF soldiers in Pulwama. In retaliation, the Indian Air Force plans a counterattack on Akhtar’s base in Balakot, with the help of RAW agent Zarina Begum. The mission is successful, but it leads to tensions between India and Pakistan. In response, the Pakistani Air Force attacks an Indian base. Patty, Taj, and Bash go against Rocky’s orders and cross the border between the two countries. Their plane is shot down and they are captured. Patty is suspended from the Air Dragons and sent to the Air Force Academy as a flying instructor. Rocky confesses to Minni that he resents Patty for the death of his younger sister, Naina Singh, in a previous mission.

Afterwards, the Pakistani government announced that Squadron Leader Sartaj Gill, ‘Taj’ (Karan Singh Grover) and Bash would be sent back to India safely. Another Squadron Leader, Sukhdeep Singh, ‘Sukhi’ (Banveen Singh) tells Patty that Bash was brutally killed by Akthar. Taj, although critically injured, is being held captive in Pakistan. Patty refuses to follow orders to join a secret mission as he is determined to rescue Taj. The team successfully infiltrates the enemy territory and manages to free Taj. Patty fights with Akhtar and ultimately kills him. After their victory, Minni and Patty share an embrace, concluding the film with a strong unspoken connection between the main characters.

Performances in Fighter

Fighter, which is fueled by both adrenaline and patriotism, is an experience as much as an action show. In this aerial odyssey that honours the Indian Air Force, Hrithik Roshan steals the show as Squadron Leader Shamsher, a pilot with steely nerves and a golden heart. Simultaneously as intense as Hrithik, Deepika Padukone portrays Squadron Leader Minal Rathore. Their chemistry on screen is electric, and their friendship as fellow pilots deepens the story. In the action scenes, Deepika proves that she is just as fierce as her male co-star.

Fighter poster
Source: IMDb

When it comes to performances, Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone are at the top. As a self-assured and rebellious squadron leader, the former excels. Anil Kapoor remains a dependable actor who perfectly captures the subtleties of his character. Among these legends, Karan Singh Grover and Akshay Oberoi also hold a strong position. While their roles don’t exactly put them at the centre of the film, Karan Singh Grover and Akshay Oberoi make the most of them. Although Rishabh Sawhney gives a sincere performance as Azhar Akhtar, the antagonist, he is not as terrifying as his character is supposed to be. There are exactly two scenes in Fighter that Ashutosh Rana and Geeta Agrawal need to leave an immediate impression. 

The utilisation of the same cliched jingoism of propaganda films

Siddhart Anand’s latest film, Fighter, is similar to Top Gun and explores the conflict between India and Pakistan. The film uses a faceless enemy to represent the threat. This type of hyper-nationalist storytelling is quite common in Indian cinema nowadays. Fighter blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, emphasising the lack of excessive grandeur in its portrayal of combat skills. The film dramatises the theme of hyper-nationalism between India and Pakistan but lacks individualism in line with its focus on the Indian air force. The romantic storyline between Padukone’s Minni, the fiery fighter pilot, and Patty, Roshan’s arrogant squadron leader, is complicated by patriotic speeches. When not in uniform, Roshan and Padukone’s characters display a more human side, making the audience wish for a less exaggerated portrayal of their romance. 

Overall, Fighter falls into the long list of recent propaganda films like Uri, Gadar 2, Pippa, Tejas etc which are a part of the government’s hyper-nationalist project in the country. These films must be looked at critically and must be analysed, keeping in mind their political messaging which manipulates and culturally indoctrinated the masses.

The tried and true portrayal of the male protagonist 

The film depicts the life of an Indian Air Force pilot and their bravery in defending the country, but it also portrays the male leads in a stereotypical Bollywood manner, with mysterious and wealthy characters. The male lead also seeks redemption for his past actions through his work, which is a common theme. Despite attempts to be unconventional, the film falls into conventional tropes for male characters, preventing it from being unique.

Despite attempts to be unconventional, the film falls into conventional tropes for male characters, preventing it from being unique.

The actor’s persona in the film Fighter can be repetitive due to the names and traits he takes on. However, he has exceptional abilities and can accomplish extraordinary things. The storyline of the film is realistic in some parts, but the heroism of the male lead is mainly determined by his versatility. He is a confident and daring fighter pilot who easily enters combat. He is also charming and can convince two women to give up their food. Additionally, he is skilled at dancing and close-quarters combat. In a particular scene, Minal Rahtor asks Taj’s wife Saanchi about Patty and why he is arrogant and stubborn. This is followed by Hrithik Roshan being referred to as a fighter and his athletic build being revealed. Despite changes in characters and execution, the ideal Bollywood lead remains the same.

Fighter poster
Source: IMDb

This is the nature of Bollywood fame. Siddharth Anand’s first film in a potential series of Air Force action films features Roshan as Squadron Leader Shamsher Pathania, a skilled fighter pilot who prioritises being a fighter over being a pilot. The film portrays the male characters in a clichéd way, highlighting their desire for redemption through their work to complete their missions. One significant scene involves Patty pleading with Saanchi to trust him in rescuing her husband Taj from Pakistan. The outcome of this situation is already known. After overcoming several challenges, Shamsher is granted atonement and another opportunity to find inner peace, making the plot seem formulaic.

The intersection of gender inequality and female empowerment in a predominantly male environment 

The film features Deepika Padukone as Minal Rathore, a strong-willed female fighter pilot who challenges societal discrimination against women. Her role as a determined combat pilot has a significant impact on the story, aiming to challenge patriarchal gender norms and promote the idea that women can pursue successful careers rather than being confined to traditional roles. Fighter is most successful when it decides to decrease its speed in the second half. The climax of the story occurs when Samsher unintentionally encounters Minal’s parents and shares with them how proud their daughter is of her achievements. This scene, followed by Minal reuniting with her parents before embarking on the final mission, is a moment of emotional release.

The scene where Mini’s gaze shifts to her father, who keeps a straight expression on his face as he recounts his previous wish to have a boy child. He always thought of Mini as a burden because he remembered his father saying, ‘A son is a property while a girl is a liability.’ He attempted to prevent herbwhen she wanted to fly as part of the Air Force. But her unwavering determination defeated her father’s outdated ideas. In the scene, he apologises without hesitation. This scene highlights the patriarchal beliefs ingrained in society and emphasises that dreams are not limited by gender.

The use of cinematography and CGF in the action scenes throughout the film

The main attraction of the film Fighter is its action scenes, particularly the dogfight sequences. Director Siddharth Anand skillfully combines real aircraft with computer graphics to create thrilling scenes that make you feel like you’re in the pilot’s seat. The camera work and sound design are impressive, keeping you engaged in the aerial combat.

The screenplay and dialogue: somewhat successful but feels ineffectual and dull

Basheer Khan (Akshay Oberoi) is one of the pilots in the Air Dragons squad that was established following the terrorist assault on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in early 2019. He gets to say what are, without a doubt, the most patriotic lines in the film—a recitation of a moving and politically charged couplet that Shamsher says early on. The dialogue ‘Duniya me mil jayenge aashiq kayi, par watan se hasi sanam nahi hota. Heero me simatkar, sone se lipatkar marte hain kayi, par tirange se khoobsurat kafan nahi hota’ marks the lasting friendship between Sartaj Gill (Karan Singh Grover), a fellow graduate of the Air Force Academy, and Shamsher and their love for their country. While the film effectively portrays patriotism, it falls short in delivering humour. The attempts to create comedic moments during the teammates’ bonding sessions are not fully successful and lack a strong impact. 

Fighter review
Source: IMDb

Hrithik’s presence adds charm to the film, but the plot is predictable and does not allow enough screen time for supporting characters to develop. However, Karan Singh Grover and Akshay Oberoi make the most of their roles. Despite appearing in only two scenes, Ashutosh Rana and Geeta leave a strong impression. Anil Kapoor’s irrepressibility adds authoritativeness to the film, yet Fighter could have used a scarier villain.

Fighter could have been better had it been more innovative and less overly patriotic and hyper-nationalist. 

Despite the strong performances, the film’s impact is diminished due to its predictable plot and characters. While it contains impressive action scenes, it lacks realistic visuals, coherence, and fluidity. Fighter could have been better had it been more innovative and less overly patriotic and hyper-nationalist. 

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