On the wings of sentiment and valour : The Tribune India

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On the wings of sentiment and valour

On the wings of sentiment and valour

Film: Fighter

Director: Siddharth Anand

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Anil Kapoor, Karan Singh Grover, Akshay Oberoi, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Talat Aziz, Sanjeev Jaiswal, Rishabh Sawhney and Ashutosh Rana

Nonika Singh

She makes a grand entry. He makes an even grander one. They both might be playing valorous and decorated pilots of the Indian Air Force (fictional of course), Deepika Padukone and Hrithik Roshan are also the big superstars of Bollywood. And director Siddharth Anand, who comes riding high on high voltage action entertainers War and Pathaan, can’t make us forget that. Yet cast as Shamsher Pathania and Meenal Rathore, while tapping into their star charisma, Anand manages to humanise them as brave and vulnerable.

So, what we see are not just two beautiful stars but also actors with heft. Both have a backstory and both get to emote with reasonable restraint. Of course, an action movie, that too in the hands of master of extravaganzas Anand, can’t be expected to be moderate. Coming close to the Republic Day, the mood of the film needs no elaboration. If the trailer has already introduced you to its jingoistic and bombastic dialogues, you can only expect more of the same dose of patriotism. But otherwise fret not, for the ‘India occupied Pakistan’ variant of dialogues come close to the climax and more or less are among the few that will make you cringe. For the rest of the time, you are involved in attacks and counterattacks between the valiant soldiers and enemy of the nation.

Not that the template with story written by Ramon Chibb and Anand breaks any new ground. The enemy is familiar; terrorists operating from neighbouring Pakistan. Though the film introduces a new villain Rishabh Sawhney as terror mastermind Azhar Akhtar, there is little freshness in his villainous methods. He comes swathed in shades of black and is ruthless to the point of madness. For Rishabh, it could have been a dream role, only if the writing hadn’t been so stereotypical and so hell-bent to portray his character and that of his country as outright monsters. Pakistan bashing is not new in our cinema; it’s ingrained in our Bollywood DNA. Only as the narrative moves between references to Pulwama, Balakot air strike and more, let it be said that ‘ghus ke maarenge’ sentiment lost its sting long ago.

Where the film finds its USP is in the aerial action set pieces. Be it mock drills or actual dog fights, fighter planes and choppers do the talking. You may have seen the best possible ‘in air action’ in Top Gun and its sequel Top Gun: Maverick. You might be tempted to dismiss Fighter as a poor imitation but this is no rip off, even as it too talks of an elite, quick response team of aviators, Air Dragons. With its fair share of melodrama, Fighter is as Indian as it gets. To be fair, till the interval, Anand keeps you engaged in its dramatic plot-line replete with some stunning aerial stunts.

Actors are in top form. Hrithik has the requisite swag, charm and as an officer with attitude and calling name Patty, he scores 10 on 10. Deepika is a perfect match and though the romance between the two is a little understated, the chemistry is palpable. Can Anil Kapoor who plays their superior, Group Captain Rakesh Jai ‘Rocky’ Singh, with a score to settle with Patty, strike a false note? Though its action and stars who drive the film, among the ensemble cast, Karan Singh Grover and Akshay Oberoi impress and Sharib Hashmi even in a bit role makes his act count. Though saddled with a not-so- convincing subplot, trust Ashutosh Rana to pull it off and make our eyes moist. Emotional quotient of the film anyway works in fits and starts. The romantic angle is mature and bonhomie between fellow officers credible.

The patriotic thread despite spirited Vande Matram anthem is predictable. Songs, except Heer Aasmani (by B Praak, Vishal Dadlani and Sheykhar Ravjiani), however, don’t leave much impact. Cinematographer Satchith Paulose captures the visual spectacle, aerial combat and slick action rather well. The finale with one-on-one combat between Hrithik and Rishabh is as massy as it gets. If action with a tadka of emotions and double shot of patriotism is the name of the entertainment game for you, this is exactly what the makers prescribe and ordered.