Fighter, directed by Siddharth Anand, is not entirely based on real-life events, but it could be said that the film takes inspiration from a lot of incidents that happened in real life and then molds them into the narrative, taking a few creative liberties. I personally didn’t hope too much out of the film, but the first half did get me hooked to some extent. I probably felt it more because I went there with certain negative preconceived notions, which was why I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent first half, to say the least. Now, I am not saying that it is a perfect film; actually, it is far from perfect. I still believe that Lakshya, directed by Farhan Akhtar in 2004, is probably one of the best mainstream Indian films of that genre. Lakshay didn’t have a great run at the box office, probably because of that the makers started to focus more on jingoism, rather than showing realistic storylines as that was something that the masses accepted. There is no doubt about the fact that Fighter is inclined towards that side only, but there are certain positives in the film, especially if you watch it in comparison with Anand’s earlier films. One problem that I generally have with such films is that the dialogues are cringeworthy, but surprisingly, I liked how subtle the conversations were. Obviously, there are moments where the protagonist makes a “larger than life” statement, which is soon followed by the heart thumping background score, but still, for me, it never went overboard. The story was predictable, and we all knew that Patty was going to face Azhar Akhtar in the end and bring Taj, Mini, and others back to India. So, let’s try to find out from which real-life instances the film draws its inspiration.
The Pulwama attack that shook the entire nation on February 14, 2019, has been recreated in Fighter. The events that happened on that fateful day have been shown accurately in the film, and they have even used the actual date. In the film, the Pulwama attack triggers a chain reaction that ends with Taj and Bash being taken into custody by the Pakistani forces after their plane was brought down by the feared Red Nose. In the real-life Pulwama attack, Jaish-e-Mohammad took responsibility for the attack, and the Pakistani government denied any sort of involvement. We saw in the film how there was a conversation that happened between the Pakistani general and Azhar Akhtar, where the former was a bit scared about the consequences of their action. He was under a lot of pressure, and he knew what could happen if India waged a war on them. Azhar was adamant, though, and he didn’t let the general take a step back, as he wanted to go ahead and do more damage. It is a known fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad and several other terrorist organizations have been given refuge in Pakistan, though time and again, the nation has declined their involvement or the existence of any such group. We don’t know what conversation would have happened at that table or what settlement the Pakistani governor and the terrorist organization would have reached in reality, but probably some negotiations would have happened between the two parties before reaching a consensus. A young boy named Adil Ahmad Dar was the suicide bomber. The film showed us how Azhar Akhtar brainwashed the vulnerable soul and fueled his hatred to the point where he felt that he was fighting for a noble cause. The same story repeats itself time and again, where predators like Azhar ruin the lives of young boys and girls. They take advantage of their ignorance and paint a flowery picture for them so that they get more pawns to sacrifice in this unnecessary war.
Another instance in Fighter that seemed to have been inspired by a real-life event was the capture of Bashar Khan and Sartaj Gill. On February 27, 2019, group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman was flying his MIG-21 and battling the Pakistani Air Force when he accidentally crossed the line of control. Abhinandan Varthaman probably would have done that, but he lost contact with the base, and he didn’t realize it when he crossed the border and entered the Pakistani air base. The Pakistani fighter jets followed him, and he fought with all his might. But Abhinandan’s plane got hit by a missile, though he was able to eject himself just at the right moment and save his life. Now, according to the Pakistani forces, the natives of the area where he landed, i.e., Azad Kashmir, attacked the Indian soldier, and it was the Pakistani forces who rescued him and took him into custody. But we know that it is not the truth, and Abhinandan would have faced something similar to what Bash and Taj did as he had broken ribs and many injuries when he came back to India. In the film, it is shown that Bash was killed and Taj was later rescued by the Garud forces, but that was not true, and that’s where some creative liberties were taken by the writers. There was a lot of pressure put on Pakistan as there were rumors that they had used the F16 in combat. According to the terms of the contract entered into by Pakistan and the U.S., the former could only use the F-16 against terrorist organizations. The Indian Air Force proved during the media briefing that Abhinandan had actually shot one F16 down, the parts of which had fallen in Indian territory. But Pakistan denied all the claims. Abhinandan Varthaman returned to his homeland on March 1. The Pakistani regime claimed that he was treated with the utmost respect and that they released him on humanitarian grounds, but we all know what happens to a prisoner when he gets stuck on foreign soil. It was a miracle that the Indian government was able to bring the officer back alive.
There is no denying that Fighter is a propaganda film, and maybe because I went to the theater expecting absolutely nothing, I didn’t come out hating it. The film will strike a chord with the masses, and we can have a debate about the consequences such a culture will have in the future, but Fighter, on the face of it, is a decent watch, if not very entertaining.