Hrithik Roshan, Anil Kapoor, Deepika Padukone are sincere in their efforts but a dull screenplay, average direction and an extremely poor antagonist drags this Fighter down.
Rating: (2 / 5)
By Mayur Lookhar
Following the dull response to Vikram Vedha , Hrithik Roshan had stated in an interview that maybe his fans only want to see him in a particular avatar. Never one to do films by the dozen, Roshan though was smart in quickly reuniting with director Siddharth Anand, the man who gave him Bang Bang  and the blockbuster War .
20 years ago, he’d played a soldier in Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya . That film was more about a confused young man finding his destiny. Now 50, Roshan stepped into the shoes of an Indian Air Force officer for the first time. Albeit not great quality, recent history suggests that action, patriotic dramas are good for box office.
Siddharth Anand joined hands with former Indian Army man Ramon Chibb [screenplay], who has created, produced infotainment content on Indian Armed Forces before. Fighter  takes inspiration from certain true events to carve a fictional conflict.
Shamsher Pathania aka Patty [Hrithik Roshan] is a cocky Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force who believes in pushing the limits. The Top Gun reference though is minimal here. Like Top Gun, the Indian Air Force has special units Fighter Forever, Air Dragons. A certain cross-border bravado by Patty has led to two colleagues Basheer Khan [Akshay Oberoi] and Taj [Karan Singh Grover] being held captive by Pakistani militants in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The preceding events are based on true stories – terror attack, Indian retaliation by air strike, but the subsequent conflict is purely a work of fiction.
The story is fine, but the dull screenplay hardly builds much engagement. The teaser gained respect, but the trailer copped criticism for certain tone, which is unbecoming of IAF officers. The Deepika-Hrithik beach wear shot was omitted, so too certain revelry. Thankfully, the ruffian tone is limited to those dialogues only (penned by Abbas and Hussain Dalal). One gets a feeling that beyond the prime conflict, key action sequences, Siddharth Anand, Ramon Chibb didn’t have a screenplay. Bulk of the 160-minute screenplay is wasted on personal stories, which hardly builds any emotional connect. Certain creative elements are unlikely to please the IAF, and the current Indian establishment, who took pride in the fact that Wing Commander Abhinandan was freed by Pakistan barely 60 hours later. Fighter deviates here which will not amuse the Indian establishment. Besides, it inadvertently appears to be sympathetic to the Pakistani establishment, who has long cried that the terror emanating from their soil into India is the work of non-state actors. Phew, we see top Pakistani Generals being shit scared of the non-state actor, terrorist Azhar Akhtar [Rishabh Sawhney].
For all the free hand, Azhar Akhtar though didn’t intimidate us one bit. More than a terrorist, Sawhney looks like a celebrity fitness trainer from a plush Bandra (Mumbai) gym. The long hair, plastic looks make you wonder whether he is operating from a terror camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or straight out of a cosmologist’s clinic. The one red eye and his skeletal looks is more akin to desi Terminator than a radicalized Pakistani terrorist. War  also suffered from a poor antagonist. Surely, Siddharth Anand and casting director Mukesh Chhabra could have found a better Azhar Akhtar than Sawhney.
A poor antagonist piles pressure on the protagonist. Roshan must have been 47-48 when he shot for Fighter. Well, Shah Rukh Khan played a Jawan at close to 60. Hrithik is still par to play an IAF Squadron Leader. Based on the teaser, a revered retired IAF officer had given the thumbs up to Fighter for respecting certain aspects – uniform, badges, salute.
Patty’s tragic backstory makes you question his early cocky attitude, and also competence. Wouldn’t it be risky to repose faith in an officer who was earlier slammed for a rash conduct in a fatal operation? Whilst Roshan is sincere, it is another typical Hrithik Roshan showing. You are not really drawn to a Patty. The dull screenplay is also to blame here.
The one with unflinching intensity is the veteran Anil Kapoor, who plays Group Captain Rakesh Jai Singh aka Rocky. When it comes to national security, a senior figure ought to have a no-nonsense approach. Rocky though lightens up in the odd shot as Fighter Forever celebrates the success of Operation Bandar.
Deepika Padukone’s Squadron Leader Minal ‘Minnie’ Rathore gets to be in the thick of action, but her personal sob story adds no real creative value to the principal plot. It only adds to the long screenplay. Padukone, though, chips in with a respectable effort, unlike her ham show in Pathaan . Minnie’s ‘You like Zomato’ to Patty is fine marketing integration.
Hrithik, Akshay Oberoi, Sanjeeda Shaikh, there are too many colorful eyes. Jeez, we’d confused Oberoi for Hrithik in the trailer where he is held captive. Shaikh, Grover, Oberoi, none of them impress you much.
Real Indian Armed Forces personnel often take Bollywood war, patriotic dramas with a pinch of salt. The aerial combat maneuvers shown in the teaser were described by the revered former IAF officer as technically possible, but practically improbable. Combat Aircrafts cost a bomb and aren’t the private property of any officer. The early action sequences are fine, but the climax airborne action isn’t all too convincing. Well, we watched the 2D version. Perhaps the 3D print will naturally enhance that experience. The final Patty v/s Azhar action though turns into a lame fist fight, accompanied by some pedestrian dialogues. Though not part of IAF, Fighter pays tribute to the late Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan with couple of Patty’s colleagues bearing the nicknames Sandy, and Unni on their crest.
Fighter has decent playback music. The title drops to the impressive Heeriye Aasmani track. Sher Khul Gaye has some peppy beats, and few sharp dance moves by Hrithik. The Fighter version of Vande Mataram should hopefully wipe away the dreaded experience of enduring A.R. Rahman’s overrated version of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s original patriotic song.
The decent showing by the three protagonists isn’t enough to mask over the boring screenplay, and average direction. Your reviewer has never been much fond of Anand’s directorial skills. Pathaan, Jawaan, Tejas, there was Uri: The Surgical Strike  too. Maybe, there is an overkill of these action, patriotic dramas. We wish there are no more such films. There’s been enough mourning and paying tributes to our martyrs. We want our Armed Forces to be alive. Hrithik’s ‘Fighter’ jet has got fire, but it’s low on creative fuel.
Watch the video review.