Recently released blockbuster Pathaan, filmmaker Siddharth Anand returns with another highly anticipated project featuring two of India’s biggest stars, Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone sharing the screen for the first time. Fighter, which aims to highlight the challenges and successes of the Indian air force, is naturally drawing comparisons to the popular Top Gun series. Beyond just the striking visual similarities, these movies also share the commonality of being made with the endorsement and backing of their respective military forces.
In the recent Top Gun update, Maverick subtly creates an anonymous and nationless enemy, while Fighter dives headfirst into a confrontation between India and Pakistan. Given the current state of Hindi cinema, it is not surprising to see such hyper-nationalistic storytelling, but the movie lacks exciting action scenes. The heavily CGI-ed aerial combat scenes are unimpressive and easily forgettable. The love story between Roshan’s confident squadron leader Patty and Padukone’s fierce fighter pilot Minni is weighed down by sentimental speeches about patriotism. When they are not in their uniforms, their characters feel more relatable, leading one to wish that Roshan and Padukone had just starred in a propaganda-free romance instead.
The desire to combine nationalism and excitement for profit leads to a series of absurd scenes. Random musical performances, known as “item songs,” are randomly included throughout the film. At one point, a mission scene abruptly switches to a dream sequence where the two main characters dance to a suggestive song in a beach resort. Even when the camera captures impressive shots of airplanes in flight, it also takes time to focus on billboards promoting household products. National pride may be popular, but advertising also brings in money.