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“Fighter” appears to be a Bollywood military drama that draws heavy inspiration from “Top Gun: Maverick” and is released around India’s Republic Day, invoking real-life events such as the 2019 Pulwama attack and the subsequent Balakot air strike. The film uses these events as a backdrop for a crowd-pleasing narrative that aligns with the rise of nationalist sentiments in Hindi-language pop cinema and the political climate of Modi-era India.

The film walks a fine line between being political and formulaic. On one hand, it explicitly references significant events in Indian military history, linking the storyline to the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike. These incidents serve as the pretext for the narrative and contribute to the saber-rattling, patriotic elements that resonate with nationalist sentiments.

On the other hand, the movie seems to adhere closely to formulaic story beats and melodramatic tropes typical of Bollywood cinema. Much of the focus is on the camaraderie and romance between two exemplary Indian Air Force pilots, played by Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, as well as their comrades. The use of such familiar elements suggests that the creators prioritize the conventional aspects of Bollywood storytelling over groundbreaking surprises.

The climax of “Fighter” reportedly involves an overheated stand-off in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir, adding a tense and dramatic dimension to the film. Additionally, there is a teasing threat that the next conflict could be in “Indian Occupied Pakistan,” hinting at the potential for future military engagements.

Despite its formulaic approach, the film was a hit during its release weekend. However, it faced a ban in theatrical release across Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates. The reasons for the ban are not specified, but it could be related to the political themes or content that may be sensitive in those regions. Overall, “Fighter” appears to blend political elements with Bollywood melodrama, catering to the tastes of its target audience while navigating real-world geopolitical complexities.

In “Fighter,” the filmmakers employ standard narrative tactics to navigate the politically sensitive context of the story. The movie attempts to avoid directly vilifying the Pakistani people, opting instead to focus on a group of India-hating terrorists led by the unapologetic Azhar Akthar (played by Rishabh Sawhney). Alongside this portrayal, the Pakistani Air Force is implicated in the storyline, as they allegedly allowed Akhtar’s group to cross the Line of Control, the boundary separating Indian and Pakistani territories.

By framing the conflict in this way, the movie seems to make a deliberate effort to distinguish between the broader Pakistani population and the specific antagonistic elements within the narrative. This approach is a common trope in storytelling, allowing filmmakers to create tension and drama without promoting negative stereotypes about an entire nationality.

The choice to use the Pulwama attack as a model for the fictionalized dramatic catalyst in “Fighter” aligns with this strategy. The Pulwama attack, in real life, left 40 Indian soldiers dead and was not directly attributed to a nation armed with nuclear weapons. This specific choice allows the film to explore a sensitive and tragic event while avoiding the complications that could arise from directly implicating a nuclear-armed nation.

However, the absence of criticism toward the Indian government or its army in “Fighter” stands out, especially in light of real-life accusations against Modi’s administration. In reality, there have been claims that the administration ignored or suppressed intelligence reports that might have prevented the Pulwama strike. Yet, in the cinematic world of “Fighter,” such criticisms are notably absent, reflecting a narrative choice that aligns with the film’s action-oriented, crowd-pleasing genre and its inspiration drawn from “Top Gun” sequels, where patriotic fervor often takes center stage over nuanced political critiques.

In the depiction of the Indian Air Force drama in “Fighter,” the movie appears to follow a formulaic and familiar narrative structure, drawing inspiration from established tropes seen in films like “Top Gun.” The portrayal encompasses various elements, from romantic musical numbers to a chain of command within the Air Force, echoing the dynamics often found in military dramas.

The central characters in this drama include rebel pilot Shamsher “Patty” Pathania, played by Hrithik Roshan, and the disapproving Group Captain Rakesh “Rocky” Jai Singh, portrayed by Anil Kapoor. The narrative seems to adhere to the classic storyline of conflict and eventual unity between these characters. Despite initial disagreements, they come together for a dangerous mission, a plot device commonly seen in military and action films.

The climax of the dangerous mission is described as featuring a hilariously over-the-top game of chicken. This suggests a departure from realism, opting for a dramatic and possibly exaggerated confrontation. Such cinematic liberties are not uncommon in action films, where heightened and sensationalized sequences serve to entertain and captivate the audience.

The movie’s portrayal of Air Force pilots, both at work and during leisure activities, is noted as being energetic but not exceptionally realistic. This could imply that the film prioritizes entertainment and spectacle over a strict adherence to authenticity. The use of computer-generated airplanes, especially when airborne, further suggests a reliance on visual effects to create dynamic and thrilling aerial sequences.

Hrithik Roshan’s charisma is highlighted, particularly in scenes where his character, Patty, takes a bet and attempts to charm a plate of biryani away from strangers. The mention of this incident showcases a level of emotional depth that seems to be more lighthearted and humorous than deeply nuanced. In the context of “Fighter,” such moments may contribute to the overall tone of the film, which appears to balance dramatic elements with lighter, more entertaining sequences.

Ultimately, “Fighter” seems to embrace the conventions of the military drama genre, blending elements of romance, conflict, and action in a manner that aligns with established cinematic tropes, providing a familiar yet engaging experience for the audience.

In “Fighter,” the dynamics between the two lead actors, Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, appear to be fairly typical of mainstream Bollywood films. The review suggests that while Padukone performs well and hits all her marks, her character may not have as much depth or prominence in the narrative compared to Roshan’s character.

Hrithik Roshan, according to the review, excels in selling the emotional gravity of the material, which is described as “popcorn cheesy.” His performance is portrayed as successful in navigating the melodramatic and formulaic elements of the film. Roshan’s ability to convey emotion and engage the audience is emphasized, particularly in scenes that require a mix of action and emotion.

The review notes Roshan’s physical attributes, such as his chiseled abs, and his ease in executing dance moves, showcasing the actor’s versatility. Roshan’s portrayal of a dependable and well-assembled “good guy” with a generic lust for revenge is highlighted, suggesting that the actor plays to his strengths in this familiar cinematic territory.

Director Siddharth Anand is credited with finding a good collaborator in Hrithik Roshan, with the review suggesting that Roshan’s performance in “Fighter” surpasses his role in the earlier film “War.” The collaboration is presented as a successful one, with Roshan being seen as a better showcase for Anand’s directorial style.

The comparison with Shah Rukh Khan, who worked with Anand in “Pathaan,” suggests that Roshan’s on-screen presence and charisma make viewers more engaged. Roshan is portrayed as a performer who draws the audience in, particularly in musical numbers and aerial fight sequences. The mention of Roshan delivering a full performance with his signature hazel green eyes implies that he can convey a range of emotions effectively through his expressions.

In summary, the review portrays Hrithik Roshan as a central and compelling figure in “Fighter,” emphasizing his ability to handle the film’s melodramatic elements and action sequences with charisma and emotional depth.

The review suggests that an alternative title for “Fighter” could be “Believer,” indicating a theme in the film that tests the protagonist Patty’s conviction in India’s ability to confront and triumph over its adversaries. The use of the term “Believer” implies that a significant aspect of the movie revolves around Patty’s unwavering faith in the strength and resilience of his country.

Despite its adherence to familiar tropes and predictable plotlines, the movie is acknowledged for delivering on its promises. The description of the drama testing Patty’s conviction suggests that the narrative might explore themes of patriotism and national pride, with the protagonist facing challenges that put his faith in India’s strength to the test.

The review notes that judging the film on its own terms, particularly those loaded with nationalist sentiments, might still result in finding certain elements of the movie thrilling. In particular, aerial chases are highlighted as potentially exciting, especially when experienced in a quality movie theater setting. This implies that the film’s action sequences, particularly those involving aerial maneuvers, could be visually impressive and engaging.

While acknowledging that “Fighter” doesn’t deviate much from the well-trodden path of similar movies in its genre, the review suggests that the film still manages to deliver on the expectations associated with this type of cinematic experience. In essence, it provides the anticipated elements of drama, action, and patriotism, catering to the expectations of its target audience.

Overall, the review paints “Fighter” as a film that, despite its predictability and adherence to genre conventions, successfully fulfills its promises, offering a satisfying experience for those who appreciate the formulaic yet thrilling aspects of Bollywood military dramas.

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