‘Fighter’: Top-notch Aerial Action Elevates a Cliched Narrative

By Daval Roy

Story: As India faces a militant attack in Kashmir, the country’s best combat aviators join forces to form Air Dragons. The story chronicles their bravery while protecting India, camaraderie, team spirit, and a top fighter pilot’s redemption after an incident in the past.

Review: Riding high on India’s Republic Day fervour, Siddharth Anand’s outing has all the ingredients of a patriotic actioner. Top-notch aerial stunts skilfully delivered by the performers keep you on the edge of your seat. Sukhoi planes executing daring maneuvers set the tone for the film as the audience is introduced to the Air Dragons.

The squad includes Meenal Rathore, aka Minnie (Deepika Padukone), Shamsher Pathania, or Patty (Hrithik Roshan), Taj (Karan Singh Oberoi), and Basheer (Akshay Oberoi), with Rakesh ‘Rocky’ Jay Singh (Anil Kapoor) as their commander. The palpable tension between Rocky and Patty and a reference to a tragic incident in the past prepares you to expect drama along with thrill.

Director Siddharth Anand, known for action entertainers, treats one to slick sequences and enthralling cockpit drama. Action directors Se-yeong Oh, Parvez Shaikh, and Sunil Rodrigues masterfully captivate the audiences’ attention with exhilarating stunts and fight choregraphy from start to finish. Cinematographer Satchith Paulose deserves applause for lending the film gravitas, whether amid the mountains, over the valleys, or on the airbases. However, the predictable tracks and cliches take away from its appeal at various stages in the narrative. The film relies on the usual tropes of a dreaded Pakistani militant on a mission to destroy India and how the Air Dragons save the day. Lines reminding one of the true meaning of religion and patriotism have also been done many times before.

Besides the familiar premise, songs, backstories, and romance seem more of a distraction than taking the story forward. The angle of patriarchy and a woman breaking the glass ceiling in a male bastion seems a tad forced. All these elements give the film uneven pacing; the second half gets a bit slow until the climax. But when the real action begins, you will sit hooked to the screen.

Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone are at their peak in terms of performances. The former excels as a confident and rebellious squadron leader. The duo has a smoldering on-screen chemistry and does well in emotional scenes as well. Anil Kapoor is as dependable as ever and gets the nuances of his role bang on. Karan Singh Oberoi and Akshay Oberoi also stand their might among these stalwarts. Rishabh Sawhney plays the antagonist, Azhar Akhtar, with sincerity but falls short of being as dreaded as his character demands.

The tactical scenarios and how the Indian Air Force outsmarts the Pakistani defence add to the film’s thrill and make it more appealing. ‘Fighter’ does not have much new to offer in terms of its plot and narrative. But it is an engaging fare, and if you are an action buff, the killer aerial combat sequences will leave you impressed. — Times of India