The weekend Biggie is here and I finally finished watching Pathaan. Shahrukh Khan(SRK) has always been one of the most beloved superstars of the country. But it wouldn’t be wrong of me to say that his last few films were not upto the mark, with even some of his staunchest fans rejecting them. Apart from Raees to an extent, none of his films even touched the 100 cr mark which was in those days, a bit of a ‘success symbol’ or atleast the benchmark of success(although totally independent of the budget of the film that ultimately would decide its fate). And what did SRK do? He decided to go back to the drawing board. That can happen to even the best of superstars whose creative vision can get blurred over a period of time. And it is only fair that we give them some space to re-figure and return to the silver screen with a bang!
So after Zero which was released in December 2018 and soon tanked, SRK was not really in the news too. He was written off and how, with almost no one giving him a chance. But it was in 2022 that he slowly started making appearances in a few films like Rocketry, Laal Singh Chadha and Brahmastra. But his comeback vehicle was touted to be the biggest of the lot in the form of Pathaan which finally was out after 4 years 1 month and 5 days. But as is(rather was) the trend of Boycotting Bollywood films, Pathaan was supposedly its next target.
I have always been saying that you can criticize the film but do not boycott it for nonsensical reasons. If Laal Singh Chaddha had to bear the brunt of the Boycott gang, all hopes were pinned on SRK to get Bollywood off to a flyer in 2023 inspite of the Boycott gang. And today as I write this review, the humongous opening of Pathaan feels like a personal victory and a victory of every cinephile out there whose sole intention was only to enjoy and savour a good film. While the Boycott gang might be searching for burnol(I may have seen a couple of them strolling at a theatre near me), it is rest assured that King Khan is back with a bang and Bollywood is alive and kicking.
A decision to not have media interactions(who may knowingly or unknowingly be a stakeholder of the boycott movement) was a genius decision by YRF who have had a torrid 2022. To be honest YRF really does need a good marketing team but the case with Pathaan(and later Tiger 3 perhaps) is different. If you have a huge superstar, it is imperative to keep faith in his stardom and fans who will guarantee you an opening. And so as Pathaan is on the verge of a highest single day opening for a Hindi film,I decided to watch it at one of the best single screen theatres, Gaiety Galaxy which has been home to whistles and hooting. So then is Pathan worth your time, who am I kidding, you are going to flock the theatres and how! But do stick around for its review in what is a fairy tale comeback for SRK.
Story & Screenplay
In the mix of the newly coined YRF spyverse, Pathaan follows the story of an Indian spy who must stop a spy gone rogue from destroying the country. This is all you need to know before venturing in Pathaan. The story is not novel by any stretch of imagination but I really did not go into the film expecting a novel idea turned into a story. My focus was on whether Pathaan would entertain like all the other mass masala entertainers. And it did and how! The screenplay standing at a shade under 150 minutes is an exhilarating ride that is fast paced and entertaining, so much so that you wish to look over some of its flaws.
The drama introduces the protagonist within the first 5 minutes that had the capacity crowd going berserk. The atmosphere was so crazy that I had to strain my ears into keeping pace with the drama amidst the noise and hoopla. This was SRK was given a grand welcome by the capacity crowd. An extended flashback does paint a picture on how Pathaan was at the helm of forming a team of misfits before his first encounter with his nemesis, Jim.
The proceedings are thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable, although logic defying. The film does throw in every element in the mix – a great looking protagonist, a powerful antagonist and a beautiful spy for company, a la James Bond. I must say that if you would apply your brains in the film, you will more likely not enjoy the drama. Sometimes cinema demands that you put aside the logic, sit back and enjoy, taking everything at face value. And Pathaan is exactly that film. Yes the film has loopholes, yes there are logical issues but it is the cinema in the purest form, something that we were introduced to in our childhood. Which is not to say that Pathaan is a 90s product. It is an old wine in a new bottle with the wine aging beautifully. The twists and turns are good but not really shocking. Having said that, the interval block did spring a surprise with a twist that I did not see coming although I still did know how things would turn up.
Remember, this is a YRF spyverse and it was the first instance in about 20 years where I did witness Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan back on the silverscreen together(a ‘mere Karan Arjun Aayenge’ moment). And boy did the crowd bring the roof down or what! This is what I expect from mass masala entertainers. Know the pulse of the audience and absolutely smash it! The second half has plenty of seeti-maar moments that made for a satisfying watch. The action set-pieces were exhilarating and I did enjoy how the bare minimum fan service was not the case with Pathaan. The scenes had a structure and a purpose that did result in the ultimate euphoria. The events leading up to the final act may seem choppy with a mixture of scenes from War and partially Welcome but it somehow did come together well. The post credits scene did ensure that the film ended on a high with a nice little meta-reference thrown in while promising another killer outing in the next YRF spyverse film Tiger 3. Overall, the screenplay is thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
One of the main reasons for an SRK starrer underperforming at the Box Office previously was because the dialogues weren’t sharp enough. Enter Abbas Tyrewala, the unsung hero of Pathaan! And the lines here were whistle worthy! To give you a perspective, there was a whistle and hooting every 5 minutes which almost made me miss some of the lines. But the response was outstanding. Much was said about Besharam Rang and the music of the film. The music and BGM are excellent and pulsating, with brilliant use of certain notes that elevated the drama to a whole new level. The cinematography was top notch that happened to cover the editing which was patchy with some faulty VFX. Director Siddharth Anand has slowly but surely cultivated his flair in action films. And he does understand the pulse of the audience so well that has resulted in an exhilarating roller coaster of a ride!
The performances are excellent here. Salman Khan as Tiger is absolutely smashing in his elements and both he and SRK in that terrific action set piece did turn the clock around. The loudest cheers were reserved for them! Ekta Kaul, Diganta Hazarika, Viraf Patel, Manish Wadhwa and Shahi Choudhary all have their moments to shine. The veterans Ashutosh Rana and Dimple Kapadia are excellent and it was a pleasure to watch them onscreen. This is perhaps the best John Abraham performance in years. He looks like a million bucks but more importantly is well within himself, something that did make him intimidating, a far cry from his loud self in other films. Deepika Padukone looks drop dead gorgeous and extends her stardom to new heights here. I would love to witness her and Katrina Kaif in this YRF spyverse that will potentially break Box Office records.
And then there is Shahrukh Khan aka Pathaan who on his comeback is in red hot form. This is the SRK that we wanted to witness and he couldn’t have picked a better comeback vehicle. He is phenomenal in the film, even in a few action sequences(despite using a body double who was smashing too) and he has single handedly ensured that the Boycott Gang is silenced(atleast for the timebeing). King Khan….Zinda Hai! ❤
Pathaan ensures that the return of King Khan is a Blockbuster filled with whistles and hooting. And Bollywood is also ‘Zinda’ and kicking! Also Shahrukh Khan OP! Available in a theatre near you and recommended to watch it in a single screen for the maximum impact!