Shah Rukh Khan is back with a bang in Pathaan, and with it, he helps Bollywood recover from a dead 2022, a disastrous year that was for the industry. The superstar has yet again been saved by a Yash Raj Films (YRF) presentation and production, a film studio and its makers Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra who’ve literally helped establish him as one of the biggest superstars India has ever produced.
In spite of positive reviews for the Pathaan trailer, the film’s buzz was impacted a bit due to negative hashtags Boycott Bollywood and Boycott Pathaan for its song Besharam Rang and anti-SRK trollers. So much so that YRF and SRK did not do any media interactions for the lead stars of the film or go the normal publicity route. A similar strategy was applied during Chak De! India, where there was no buzz about SRK’s role as a coach to the Indian women’s hockey team. The strategy worked only because Chak De was genuinely a gem of a film and critics loved it! It soon became a rage. The same seems to have worked in the case of Pathaan.
Who is who in Pathaan
Shah Rukh Khan plays Pathaan, an ex-officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) of India who is called back from his exile to take down Jim (John Abraham), an old colleague who has gone rogue and is now a most wanted terrorist with his own organization.
Deepika Padukone is another spy Rubina “Rubai” Mohsin, formerly belonging to the Pakistan outfit Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Throughout the film, it is not clear whose side she is on, Pathaan’s or Jim’s. It is revealed in the end.
John Abraham is Jim, the nemesis. The actor returns to the YRF fold after films like Dhoom and New York, where he had impressed everyone. The action star and handsome hunk are always up the ante for a YRF production.
Salman Khan does a cameo as Tiger from the YRF Spy Universe, who comes in to save Pathaan from the goons.
The plot involved Pathaan taking on Jim, some flashbacks explaining their past, and some help to both from Rubai. There’s Pathaan’s former boss Nandini (Dimple Kapadia) who forms an organization called JOCR (Joint Operation and Covert Research) with him with former spies from around the world. With the permission of a former colleague from R&AW, the Joint Secretary Colonel Sunil Luthra (Ashutosh Rana), Pathaan, Nandini and Team set out to stop Jim from his latest terror mission. It is revealed that Jim is involved in the manufacture of a biowarfare weapon and mission code-worded Raktbeej, and more revelations happen along the way, as the plot thickens.
What works for Pathaan
Pathaan is part of the YRF Spy Universe series of films, like the Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif ‘Tiger’ series and the Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff starrer ‘War’. Declaring Pathaan as part of the YSU helped cement its position as a masala action flick with loads of entertainment at the onset. And Pathaan turned out to be just that!
Action, action, and action, but with a lot of styles and some whistle-worthy one-liners (and some cringy ones). The film feels like an adrenaline rush with no space to think about what’s going on but is entertaining nevertheless. The high production standards and action emulating Hollywood make Pathaan a worthy watch, although the Tiger series and War have much better storylines.
Pathaan is the name and the Muslim identity
Shah Rukh Khan insisted on calling the film Pathaan and maintaining a Muslim identity. He is also a Pathaan and a Muslim in real life. The strategy has worked in his favor, with Indians supporting him by watching his film, thus denouncing the divisive politics of the powerful political parties who have not done much to stop communal disharmony in recent times in the country.
Shah Rukh Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan! The most-loved romantic actor establishes himself as an action star, and how! His experience in essaying characters like Don and his early negative roles help add a touch of aggression to Pathaan’s character. But what we liked is that Pathaan is shown to be tough yet vulnerable, and a Muslim man who is devoted to his country. All the qualities that are seen in real life in Shah Rukh Khan.
John Abraham steals the show as Jim, the main villain of Pathaan the film! We actually feel sorry for John’s character, as he is defeated towards the end. Jim’s back story leads to some empathy from the viewers for his character. But it also shows the RAW and one of its chiefs (Ashutosh Rana here) in a bad light. We hope Jim makes a comeback somehow in the next installment of Pathaan, just so that we can watch John again playing him!
Deepika Padukone shines as an action star in Pathaan, just as she had in Vin Diesel’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Deepika deserves a full action film for herself from YRF! She also oozes oomph in her ultra-feminine outfits.
Salman Khan unintentionally broke the Fourth Wall upon his entry in Pathaan as Tiger! Not literally but with his acting. His fun and surprise act is to die for and it transcended the cinema screen! Fans in the theatre could not have enough of him even with his 6-plus-minute cameo and also an end-credits scene.
Dimple Kapadia, the acclaimed actress does not disappoint in her role as Nandini who inspires Pathaan and (SPOILER) sacrifices herself for the country.
Ashutosh Rana as the RAW former colleague of Pathaan and Nandini is in an apt supporting role.
What does not work – too many twists and no romance
Too many twists and turns and subplots make Pathaan look like an Abbas-Mustan thriller. Oh, as if mandatory, there is the enemy Pakistan, with friendly Afghanistan, and a climax with biowarfare weapons made by Jim’s team that need to be destroyed in order to save the world.
The romantic angle between Pathaan and Rubai needed to be explored more, even if to give the audience a break from the mindless action and VFX. A song like Tiger Zinda Hai’s Dil Diyan Gallan would have looked good on SRK and Deepika – their chemistry as Pathaan and Rubai was good enough. More songs apart from Besharam Rang and Jhoome Jo Pathaan should have been there. However, the background score does add to the proceedings when things become a bit boring.
Box Office Analysis
Pathaan has created 21 new records at the box office in just two days of its release on January 25, grossing Rs.300 crore at the worldwide box office. In the coming days, more records will be broken and created. The film was released just a day before a public holiday and had a bumper opening.
This proves that the worldwide craze of SRK has not died down. Fans were patiently waiting for a good film from him after several flops over the years. They want him to entertain him – period! As an analysis of his forthcoming films suggests, SRK is here to stay in his comeback phase. SRK will be resurrected as a mega movie star, with his three film releases in 2023 i.e. Pathaan, Jawan, and Dunki.
SRK was also very confident about the success of Pathaan, as he had revealed in an interview with acclaimed journalist Faye D’Souza before the film’s release. Such confidence after delivering flops at the age of 57 shows the man’s mettle and his planning for the future.
Despite the unnecessary controversy over Deepika Padukone’s revealing outfits in the songs, Pathaan is a family film and Indian audiences like to watch movies with family and friends. That also explains the success of certain Hollywood films in 2021-22 in India like Spider-Man: No way Home and Avatar: The Way of Water, which was loved by a family audience. In general, even international films with a family viewing experience like the series of Avengers, Kung Fu Panda, Frozen, The Jungle Book, and many other animation films, have a better chance at the Indian box office.
Pathan is a full package of entertainment and Shah Rukh Khan is all guns blazing with his blitzkrieg in an effort to revive his career. Like the tagline says, fasten your seatbelts – “Apni kursi kee peti bandh lo” – and enjoy the action. “Mausam badalne wala hain” – the tide is going to turn for sure for Bollywood!