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4.06 

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Bollywoodization Of Indian Air Force
Mar 31, 2024 02:49 PM 156 Views

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On my sister's recommendation I watched the movie "Fighter" on Netflix yesterday. Its a Siddharth Anand(SA) movie who seems to be making come-back films for forgotten heroes. Remember Pathaan!


Squadron Leader, Shamsher Pathania or Patty(Hrithik Roshan - HR) is the best fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force(IAF). He comes to join a special Unit of the IAF called Air Dragons to combat at LoC. The Commanding Officer(CO) of the Unit is Rakesh Jaisingh aka Rocky(Anil Kapoor) who has a bias against Patty. He also meets Squadron Leader, Minal Rathore or Mimie(Deepika Padukone - DP) in the same Unit. Mimie instantly gets attracted to Patty who at first appears to be an arrogant loner. Gradually, he opens up to Mimie and confesses that he is not good for people he loves. Its later, post a botched up combat, that Rocky tells Mimie how he lost his younger sister, Naina Jaisingh, another ace fighter pilot, because of Patty's miscalucation and pushiness.


Rocky tries every possible means to keep Patty away from direct combat. However, under Patty's leadership, Project Bandar, a counter attack on terrorist outfits in PoK, succeeds. Subsequently, in another mission, two fighter pilots of Air Dragon and Patty's friends, Sartaj Gill or Taj(Karan Singh Grover) and Basheer Khan or Bash(Akshay Oberoi) are ambushed by Pakistani Air Force, held as war prisoners and tortured inhumanly. Consequently, Patty is court marshalled. Though he is not directly found responsible for the mishap but nonetheless transferred to Hyderabad as Flying Instructor of the Air Force Academy.


Patty is demoralized. He also feels guilty of not being able to save his friends. He expresses his wish to put down his papers. To give him an opportunity to think over, he is told to take leave and review his decision on his return. Patty comes back to Jammu where he resides with his father(Talat Aziz). Before leaving he wants to meet his friends in the Unit. It is also the time when Pakistan announces that Bash and Taj will be handed over to India. But instead, in a shocking twist to the tale, Bash's body, brutally cut into pieces, is brought over. Taj is still retained by Pakistan.


From the very beginning, it is made clear that Pakistani Military is a mere puppet in the hands of Jaish, a terrorist group. The mastermind of Jaish is one Arnold-schwarzenegger-type-villain, Azhar Akhtar(Rishabh Sawheny) who perpetrates bloodbaths with a dead-pan face, has a quaint red coloured eye, smokes expensive cigars and gatecrashes into the offices of top military brass of Pakistan with super ease as though it were his personal boudoire. On top of it he calls himself the messiah of mujahideens and is as cold blooded as a cadaver. His vindictiveness looks more personal than based on any broader political or military agenda.


How Taj is brought back home, how Air Dragons take revenge on PAF(Pakistani Air Force) for their unethical stand of murdering Basheer Khan, a war prisoner and how Patty regains his erstwhile Group Captain Rocky's faith and appreciation comprise the last half an hour of the narrative. In between there are parallel tracks like Mimie's reunion with his father(Ashutosh Rana) and mother(Geeta Aggarwal) who had cut off all ties with her since she joined IAF. The reunion is courtesy Patty who in order to get a seat in a totally booked Jammu Flight comes across the Operation Manager, Abhijeet Rathore, puts two and two together and delivers a long lecture on gender bias and how great an officer Mimie is. Of course, he knew beforehand that Mimie was estranged from her family.


The romantic track between Patty and Mimie is absolute Bollywood sizzle-wriggle. The song and dance sequences, Mimie in skimpy clothes and Patty suddenly breaking into the typical HR-ish gyrations and moves look like a deliberate attempt to throw-in a Bollywood style glamour quotient to a way of life which is far removed from it. Though the screen play is written in collaboration with Ramon Chibb who has a Defence background, Bollywood, I believe, cannot restraint from putting in their home grown masala into a script which could have had a more thrilling and edge-of-the-seat tenor. Moreover, I have never heard such insipid songs in a war movie which are thorough ear sores and fail to be blood boiling(in contrast to the old classics both in terms of war film and their patriotism invoking music). There is also another track of one secret RAW agent called Zareena Begum who flits in and out of the frame in a Burqaa and Pakistani Intelligence does not have an inkling that(s)he is a double agent! How convenient.


Unfortunately, the movie has all the ingredients of being a memorable one which it has not turned out to be. But alas! SA proposed to make a Big Budget Venture and establish himself as a high revenue grossing Director like his earlier experiment(with Pathaan). How these balderdash movies become super duper hits is a different story alltogether.


The romantic trail between Patty and Mimie and their decision to part ways could have been more touchingly walked through rather than converting it into a Jumping-Jackass-Song-and-Dance-Sequence! The last ten minutes of the "direct combat" between Patty and Azhar(Arnold)Akhtar was so over the top intercepted by patriotism oozing dialogues that the current sensitive issue of discordial relationship between India and Pakistan, which the narrative capitalized on, degenerates into a mockery of complex border realities.


The SAs of today forget that Indian viewership is now exposed to OTT releases and series which are more meaningful, hard hitting and presentable content wise.(Reference may be drawn to Meghna Gulzar's latest biopic "Sam Bahadur" which is a heartstealer). The actual competition lies there. Since, SA is determined to make a "planned serial action franchise", hope he will pay heed and dish out improved versions of war mongering in future.


To give the devil its due, Fighter has a few very good air combat scenes. DP's collection of Pullovers is enviable. Understandably, the entire focus is on Hrithik Roshan and he fits into the role like a pair of well-stiched gloves. Deepika's athletic body is an asset to such roles. Her character should have had more meat than just used to portray woman's stature in the IAF. Ashutosh Rana was grossly underutilized. Just don't know why he agreed to play such a miniscule role to deliver "progressive lines" on "equality of women". Siddharth Anand's direction is, needless to say, flawful. The DoP is good to certain extent. The song and dance interludes are total pace breakers.


Yet I reommend this movie wholly and solely because of Hrithik Roshan and Anil Kapoor who put in their best to make the most of a lopsided narrative.


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