Director: Siddharth Anand
Writers: Siddharth Anand, Shridhar Raghavan, Abbas Tyrewala
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham
Released in theatres.
I did not like the trailer of Pathaan which was a showreel of action sequences rather than a trailer. Did not like the two songs that were released. And thankfully, those are the only two songs in the film. Despite all of this, I was super eager to watch Pathaan for what it meant for many things.
For starters, it was Shah Rukh Khan’s comeback after four years and a few disappointing films. It is evident in every scene of his in the film how much he has worked for this comeback. There’s hurt, and a hint of sadness in his eyes, that symbolizes his and his character’s journey in the recent past. His chiseled body at 57 years of age is proof of ‘I’m not done yet’. If you’re willing to indulge, and a flick like this does not allow you to do that, he has worked on his voice. He has grown long hair to give himself a new look when people see him on the big screen after many years in a good film.
Speaking of the big-screen experience, Pathaan is top-notch in terms of the spectacle it set out to achieve. The viewer is treated with one action set piece after the other. There’s no way you could let the film grow on you. It’s bang-bang from the word go. Director Siddharth Anand has been upping his game in action-adventure films since his Hrithik-Katrina starrer Bang Bang.
For Pathaan, the director who has written the story reunites with Shridhar Raghavan for the screenplay and Abbas Tyrewala for the dialogue after the trio created YRF’s last hit WAR (2019). There are a few errors in the screenplay but flicks such as this one are not so much about the plot as they’re about the spectacle. But credit to the writers, they round up the film well. Flicks such as this one seldom manage to do that. Abbas Tyrewala’s dialogue is a fine mix of originality, nostalgia, and meta references.
The other actor/star who surprises after a series of duds is John Abraham. Action is home ground for John and he is in sublime form as the antagonist Jim. There’s everything in this film that you could imagine for a spectacle – spies, international crime, warfare, action, and enough romance. Speaking of which Deepika Padukone plays an ISI agent. She ups the glam quotient of the film with a bikini-clad item number shot in Spain and gets to do some action too. But Deepika and the makers rely more on her screen presence than her character. She is a dream to look at in every film she has done, but the actress sounds the same in her dialogue delivery in every film of hers. Although she has been given enough skills and thrills in the film, DP looks out of place.
Pathaan is designed for a superstar and his fans and audience in general as the ‘paisa vasool’ movie meant to be enjoyed in a theatre with your gang or strangers because there will be no dearth of seetis, taalis, and shor. There are enough ‘money shots’ for you to go wow! The action travels from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Syria, Spain, Russia, and Africa. There’s enough variety and newness in Pathaan’s treatment and mood board.
The film moves like a sine wave – there are highs and there are lows. One can understand a deliberate low just to give the audience a breather before the film picks up a crescendo again. But the low points in Pathaan might bore you a little.
The most ‘paisa vasool’ sequence in Pathaan is Salman Khan’s Tiger cameo. The movie’s trailer had the YRF Spyverse logo so it was expected that Salman will be doing a cameo. I was expecting Hrithik also to show up by the end but it seems like Kabir from WAR was not keen. The brilliantly designed action sequence on a train has the two superstars of Hindi cinema Salman and SRK, both in their late 50s, killing it literally and figuratively. The spectacle is not merely the action but it’s the superstardom of these two Khans at its utmost glory. The fanboy of Salman in me who had gotten lost in world cinema cheered with joy once again. I would have watched the film for that sequence alone.
Let me go back to the start when I said I was eager to watch Pathaan for what it meant for many things. More than the film, I was interested to look for the statement SRK makes with this movie. I was happy with what I saw/read. It was high time that the makers of Pathaan – YRF – the only major production house in India to hold back films from releasing directly on OTT during the pandemic delivered a hit – although Prithviraj and Jayeshbhai Jordaar were scrutinized beyond the limit.
In a way, the film industry – from makers to exhibitors – was hoping that Pathaan brings audiences back to theatres. The Hindi film industry’s last two blockbusters Drishyam 2 and Bhool Bholaiyaa were franchise flicks. Ranbir Kapoor’s Brahmastra was heavily marketed to ensure theatrical success. Pathaan’s advance booking ensures that the audiences will be back in theatres. But more than that, the less is more attitude used in the movie’s marketing strategy seems to have worked in the film’s favor. The mystery around SRK not being accessible before the release of the film only increases the audience’s desire to watch him on the big screen. It is a lesson to be learned by many. Also, it was assuring to see the CBFC not succumbing to paying attention to every gang trying to take objection for something as little and silly as the color of a bikini.
But even if you don’t intellectualize the film or the factors surrounding it, Pathaan is a thoroughly entertaining theatrical experience. This is how superstar entertainers are supposed to be made and enjoyed. Definitely worth checking out.