Pathaan (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – An Indian spy takes on the leader of a group of mercenaries who have nefarious plans to target his homeland.

My Take – As a fan myself, I must attest that watching Shah Rukh Khan on the big screen all my life has never been a downer, be it at any stage in his career. Who even in his bad films, managed to always walk away with all the glory.

Though his last releases, Zero (2018) and Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017), under-performed both commercially and critically, Shah Rukh Khan is undoubtedly still the undisputed king of Hindi cinema, irrespective of box office numbers. A factory of charm and suave, who is widely considered as the man who put Indian cinema on the world map. A result of which even his poorly received films back in India end up raking in more than decent numbers in the overseas market.

Hence, it hasn’t been surprising to see his return to the big screen after a 4 year hiatus been marketed as an event film, with both fans and neutral audience being super excited ever since the initial announcement was made. While the comeback factor was enough to push the excitement, the hype machine only got larger when Yash Raj Films (YRF) announced that film would act as the latest installment of their Spy Universe in the wake of Ek the Tiger (2012), Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) and War (2019).

And by looking at the records the film has broken in the last two days, it is safe to say director Siddharth Anand, who well proved his forte in the action genre with War (2019) and Bang Bang! (2014), delivered on his promise by presenting Shah Rukh Khan larger-than-life in an entertainer that is perfectly packaged with the right dose of action, thrill, emotion, drama and a special appearance for the ages.

Sure, it doesn’t break any new grounds and will require one to suspend disbelief a lot more than one would have anticipated, and yet the treatment works. Led by a sexy and smoldering Shah Rukh Khan, the film contains all the ingredients of a tent pole commercial potboiler from slow motion entries and over-the-top treatment to the iconic battle between good and evil to ensure an excellent time at the movies. Making it the perfect comeback vehicle for the superstar as he gifts back his clapping and whistling fans each and every second of the wait.

What’s more hilarious is that the controversy around the ‘Besharam Rang’ song pumped up the hype and made the neutral audience aware of the film, who clearly instead of boycotting, marched in huge numbers to their nearest screens to embrace the action entertainer with open arms.

The story follows Pathaan (Shah Rukh Khan), an Indian intelligence agent, belonging to a unit dubbed, “Joint Operation and Covert Research” (JOCR), who is on the mission to stop Jim (John Abraham), the leader of a private terrorist enterprise called Outfit X, who is armed with a biological weapon of mass destruction, a virus called Raktbeej, and intends to use it on Indian soil.

Joined by Rubai (Deepika Padukone), an ISI agent with ambiguous motives, Pathaan is forced to run against the clock, hopping continents and indulge in a dangerous game of betrayal and revenge to prevent Jim’s nefarious plans.

Considering its plot and treatment, director Siddharth Anand‘s fascination and fanboy worship of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, particularly James Bond films and Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series, is evident here. Anchored by sleek action, innovative cinematography and gorgeous looking people, director Anand follows the template he established in War (2019), and keeps a stream of wolf-whistle-worthy one-liners and self-referential jokes going to keep the film highly fun that it becomes easier to overlook the superficiality of the politics the film presents or its tackier portions.

In comparison to the previous films of the said universe, even the scale is bigger, better and bamboozling. Giving not just Shah Rukh Khan, but even John Abraham and Deepika Padukone stupendous entry sequences which fans would deliciously gobble. It also helps that the film, written by Shridhar Raghavan and Abbas Tyrewala from a story by Siddharth Anand, is backed by a narrative that is fast-paced with high points at regular intervals.

The story also takes a different turn in the second half to bring in the element of drama and emotion, as it gives Pathaan a personal arc to rise and roar above all the odds. Visually too the film is stunning. Containing probably the biggest action sequences seen in a Hindi film, both in terms of vision and execution.

Right from the introduction block of Shah Rukh Khan to the fight scene in Spain, the pre-interval block in Russia, the chase sequence on the ice, and the climax, it’s all a delight to watch on the big screen. YRF ensures that the production values are top notch with no compromises made in any aspect to mount the film at a certain level.

Without a doubt, the film belongs to Shah Rukh Khan, who completely dominates the screen. Despite dabbling in the action genre before, this one is his first massively mounted film and he aces the character from the word go. He might have been over four years away from the big screen but obviously, he hasn’t lost a beat. Khan, at 57 is better-looking, more flexible and most importantly, believable while doing all the crazy stuff than an array of younger actors. He is presented as a true-blue superstar of Indian Cinema and deserves every bit of the manner in which he is projected on the screen. It’s a celebration of a man named Shah Rukh Khan.

John Abraham makes for a powerful and ruthless antagonist, reminiscent of his breakthrough role in Dhoom (2004). Be it his masked entry or stunt sequences, John is menacing throughout and his character arc gives him the opportunity to display varied shades of emotions. Deepika Padukone manages to be a perfect femme fatale, scorching the screen with her glamour and kicking ass appropriately when required. She is perfectly cast as the dutiful, double crossing, morally ambiguous leggy agent who can pull off some serious kicks and punches.

Salman Khan’s stunning reprisal of his Tiger role is deserving of every ounce of the hysteria it is creating. The camaraderie shared by the two mighty Khans through the prolonged action sequence reaffirms why the two are the greatest superstars of Hindi Cinema. In supporting roles, both Dimple Kapadia and Ashutosh Rana (reprising his role from War) leave strong impacts. On the whole, ‘Pathaan’ is a highly entertaining globetrotting spy thriller that plays to the galleries and lives up to the hype.

Directed –

Starring – Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 146 minutes

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