Pathaan movie review: It serves brand Shah Rukh Khan well 

It has taken Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan a little over three decades to do an action film. In Siddharth Anand’s ‘Pathaan’, SRK flexes muscle, jumps off cliffs, fight the villain (in this case John Abraham) on a moving bus, and single-handedly saves the nation from a catastrophe – with just a mere nose cut. ‘Pathaan’ promotes the brand of Shah Rukh Khan to the hilt.  He may be called Pathaan on screen, but he is a man who is devoid of any religion and is ok to befriend the enemy if it means saving his motherland. For fans of the actor, the film makes SRK almost a superhero as he returns to the big screen after 4 long years. 

Written by Siddharth Anand, with a screenplay by Sridhar Raghavan and dialogues by Abbas Tyrewala, ‘Pathaan’ provides several whistle-worthy dialogues and moments in the 146 minutes long film. The story may not always be very logical, but hey, we are here to celebrate King Khan in all his glory after four long years and the film, in this case, serves well. 

What’s the plot though? Not the most plausible one for sure. Jim (Abraham) has threatened the Indian intelligence to save the country in 24 hours from a catastrophe that can destroy an entire generation. Jim himself was an ex-Army officer who somewhat went rogue and now works for whoever gives him money. Some general from the neighbouring country was to avenge the abomination of sector 370 from Kashmir and has asked to wipe off India’s population via a lab-made virus (a nod to COVID-19) that can kill people instantly once infected. The Indian intelligence calls back Pathaan, a spy who has been MIA for two years. Pathaan is a daredevil who had once created a special task force with army officers who had retired due to war injuries. He got caught during a covert operation in Russia, where the Indian government refused to take responsibility for him and left him to die- as is the norm for special agents. Two years on, as he comes back to abort mission Raktbeej, he takes the help of ex-ISI agent Rubia (Deepika Padukone) to thwart Jim’s plan. Mind you, Rubia had once double-crossed him and helped Jim acquire the said virus from a lab in Russia for further tests but Pathaan is also a kind-hearted man who believes in giving second chances and so two agents from India and Pakistan join hands to thwart a mission that can lead to the death of lakhs of people.

 

The film is high on action and Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t have to really go the extra mile to prove himself as an actor. Instead, Khan performs some heavy-duty action stunts, and with aid of VFX, does some of the most unthinkable stunts with great comfort. Cinematically it provides for great viewing as you see Khan flex his muscles, show off his ripped abs and carefully unruly longish hair as he fights men double his size. Giving him company is John Abraham, who somewhat reprises his role as an anti-hero from ‘Dhoom’. Abraham’s Jim and Khan’s Pathaan have had similar career trajectories but while Jim decided to go rogue, Pathaan sticks to loving and being loyal to his motherland. Jim is somewhat of a megalomaniac and ruthless while Pathaan is more forgiving and kind. The clash between the two is inevitable and the said scenes have been well choreographed and shot. Deepika Padukone gets to kick some butt but her role is limited. While she looks good, Padukone has not much to do in terms of acting. Its like watching her in ‘Race 2’, 10 years back. Padukone in the last decade has proved her mettle as a performer and ‘Pathaan’ never really does any justice to her. 

The story is paper thin and the first half especially slackens as the narrative goes back and forth constantly making it slightly confusing. The pace picks up post-interval when the actual plot of the film is established. There is a long-drawn action sequence featuring Pathaan and Tiger (Salman Khan) who fight the bad guys on a moving train. Stuff made of dreams quite literally as one gets to watch the Hindi film industry’s two superstars Salman and Shah Rukh Khan fight together with the bad guys to save the nation. The scene is one of the highlights of ‘Pathaan’, and it’s a sheer delight to watch the two Khans together on screen.  In an attempt to provide multiple twists, often the story loses logic and a suspension of disbelief is expected from the viewers throughout. 

Does ‘Pathaan’ work despite the flaws? Yes, because of Shah Rukh Khan and the image he has so carefully cultivated in all these years. His character is an orphan who has been raised in an orphanage who never had a religion to follow. He was named Pathaan by a family in Afghanistan which saved him during a covert operation. ‘Pathaan’ the film does diss any religion but only the bad guys and makes SRK the superhero who places his country above all religious fanatism. Pretty much similar to how Khan has projected himself all these years. 

Is ‘Pathaan’ anti-India? No. Is it anti-Hindutva or for that matter any religion? No. It cleverly balances the narrative without taking sides, provides for a pulpy actioner and presents the brand Shah Rukh Khan in all its glory.