The announcement for “Fighter” back in 2021 piqued everyone’s interest as it brought back the effective duo of Siddharth Anand and Hrithik Roshan after “War” (2019) and “Bang Bang” (2014). After all, Siddharth Anand has a reputation for handling the aura of stars in his action entertainers like we have seen in the mentioned movies and has only grown with his highest-grossing venture “Pathaan” last year that marked not only the return of Shah Rukh Khan on the big screen but also the glory of Bollywood and the euphoria of a community viewing experience. However, that film drew mixed responses about the VFX and highly impractical action sequences that relied heavily on CGI. With “Fighter”, he launches his own independent production house called Marflix Pictures and brings forth an aerial action film which is set against the backdrop of the Indian Air Force. As compared to his previous action ventures, Siddharth Anand with the help of Ramon Chibb (writer and ex-army officer) has probably presented his most grounded film with a predictable storyline that keeps you hooked even with its generic treatment of patriotism. Moreover, the patriotism which slightly tilts towards being jingoistic (more on this later) never compromises the core of the film, which is the camaraderie and personal relationships of the fighter pilots played by Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Karan Singh Grover, and Akshay Oberoi, with Anil Kapoor as their commanding officer.
Misleading Promotional Campaign: Fighter’s Trailer Fails to Capture Film’s Depth and Integrity:
The promotional campaign of Fighter; will seem like a scam once you finish the film. Saying that the trailer does a disservice to the film’s overall quality is simply an understatement. The trailer gave an impression to many that this action flick would just have an overload of jingoistic dialogues throughout the screenplay and turn out to be indulgent, without keeping the significance of the Indian Air Force and the country’s politics in mind. This also includes Siddharth Anand’s usual template of showing his lead romantic pair romancing in exotic foreign beaches that are just randomly put into the screenplay for eye candy. Fighter, however, is far from that.
Patriotic Sentiments and Narrative Nuances in ‘Fighter’: A Balanced Perspective:
Yes, the jingoism is present in the film. Yes, it is present to evoke loud hooting from the audience. But, it is majorly spread out in the climatic moments of the film where the treatment seems perfectly fit for this action extravaganza. The dialogue by the actor playing the minister who says, “Unhe dikhana padega ki…. baap kaun hai” does seem to be extremely forced as we saw in the trailer. But the “IOP” dialogue by Hrithik, which was also shown in the trailer, arrives at a point where we have witnessed the absolute frustration of the Air Force officers who have experienced enough from the enemy and the country’s nature of non-retaliation. What seemed like another loud and generic ‘India vs Pakistan’ turns out to be a moving patriotic venture, with a slight tilt towards being jingoistic. But it was well-earned. Speaking of the supposed ‘India vs Pakistan’ narrative, the makers of “Fighter” have ensured that the enemy is never the neighboring country, but the act of terrorism only. This is a recurring factor throughout the film.
Music Review: A Mixed Bag with Standout Tracks in Fighter:
The Vishal-Shekhar music is more or less a mixed bag, considering the absolute bangers that they have provided for Siddharth Anand’s films in the past. Sher Khul Gaye, almost sounding like a rip off of the hit Bee Gees number “Stayin’ Alive”, may grow on you despite the mid-choreography (considering it is a Hrithik Roshan dance number) but the placement of the film is extremely abrupt and will make you irk. Ishq Jaisa Kuch is made for the movie’s promotion, having a formidable and gorgeous pair having fun in foreign locations which is a Siddharth Anand template.
However, it was a wise decision to have it only in the end credits so that the screenplay wasn’t unnecessarily interrupted. The standout, however, would be Heer Aasmani who plays during the opening credits of the film, showcasing the Air Dragons team bonding with each other during their training, which is done with great effectiveness and successfully makes you develop a personal connection with each team member. Another effective song is Mitti which plays during a tragic moment in the film and should’ve been part of the promotional campaign. And the Vande Mataram rendition by Vishal-Shekhar, which is the anthem of Fighter, is a recurring aspect of the film’s narrative that works big time.
The one major stumbling block of the film is certainly the villain of the film, Azhar Akhtar, played by debutant Rishabh Sawhney. The actor has the necessary screen presence and intense dialogue delivery for an antagonist shown in this kind of action entertainer. However, Azhar Akhtar is so underwritten that it reduces him just being extremely one-note. It may be refreshing from the usual sad origin villain stories we have just seen in “Pathaan” and “Tiger 3” but a little of depth would’ve elevated the impact of the character and may have been a home run for the actor.
That being said, the comparisons will naturally crop up but the way Siddharth Anand has crafted and choreographed these aerial action sequences is commendable. Everything from the action choreography to the way the pilots interact with each other is taken into consideration and it makes these sequences even more thrilling for you to witness on the big screen. With this, it’s safe to say that “Fighter” has set a new standard for the action genre in Hindi cinema.
Although Akshay Oberoi puts forth a convincing performance as Bash, it is Karan Singh Grover as Taj who will manage to surprise you with his joking nature that immediately makes you connect with him and gives you enough insight into how his relationship with Patty, played by Hrithik, is. Akshay Oberoi as Bash is sincere enough to at least make you smile when you see him bonding with his teammates. Sanjeeda Sheikh shares one of the most emotional scenes alongside Hrithik that both actors so beautifully performed.
Deepika’s Groundbreaking Performance:
Coming to the main leads, Deepika may have had a lazy year with “Pathaan” and “Jawan” where you don’t see her give her much effort into her roles. But with “Fighter”, she has probably given her most grounded performance in otherwise usual stints in the commercial action space. As Meenal, she puts forth earnestness in conversations with Hrithik about how girls dare to aspire in their lives and serve in the armed forces.
A beautiful thing Siddharth Anand has done with Meenal is that he has given her a character arc which leads to a very emotional moment in the film during a scene with Deepika and Ashutosh Rana as her father in a cameo. And the best part about her character is that her chemistry with Hrithik is far from superficial, as compared to Siddharth Anand’s recent ventures in the action genre. Probably after “Bang Bang”, this might be the organic lead pair among his action filmography. The banter and romance between Hrithik and Deepika is extremely sweet and heartwarming to see in the film.
Anil Kapoor’s Commanding Performance in “Animal”: A Masterclass in Sincerity and Chemistry:
Anil Kapoor may be in the best phase of his career where he puts forth such sincerity in his roles since “AK vs AK” (2020) and recently with “Animal” just last year. He carries himself with such command over his body language and dialogue delivery as the CO (commanding officer) Rocky that not even once do you feel that he is underplaying or overdoing it. It’s just the right balance. His scenes with Hrithik from the very first frame of them together are enough to tell you that their relationship is beyond a normal subordinate and CO.
Honestly, you’ll keep on wondering the last time Hrithik Roshan was probably given a bad performance over the past few years. The man can portray a range of emotions with only his eyes, whether it is sorrow, anger, restraint, or love. His eyes play a huge asset to the film as Patty is the nucleus of the team and Siddharth Anand makes the most of this by close-ups on his eyes or face. Hrithik Roshan portrays Patty as the hot-headed and spontaneous pilot with such swagger and confidence but also along with the emotional turmoil he is going through internally. Being the anchor of his team and the film, “Fighter” hugely benefits from having this emotional angle to its story which is usually missing in most Hindi commercial action movies.
The major reason why “Fighter” stands out in the action genre in Hindi cinema is not just restricted to the impressive VFX, but giving enough time for us to connect with the characters and empathize with them. It is a grounded narrative of the film with the backdrop of the Indian Air Force makes this film worth your time and money in theatres.