Pathaan (2023) Movie Ending Explained: In an article for The Caravan, Eram Agha writes that Bollywood’s biggest superstar has been intimidated into silence through consistent abuse from the Hindu right-wing for his secular beliefs enshrined into the constitution. But regardless, he has refused to join his colleagues in the industry in their sycophantic praise for the Modi government. It also quotes Barkha Dutt’s October 2021 article for The Washington Post in which she recognizes the transformation of Shahrukh Khan from a symbol of India’s pluralism due to his rags-to-riches story, his interfaith love marriage and his wit to an apologetic and silent public figure.

Dutt laments the same as a sign of corroding Indian democracy in the wake of the Hindu right wing. It is not to say that Shahrukh Khan’s relevance has eroded with time. Still, the ascent of Hindu fascism into power has undoubtedly made his religion overt, eschewing all secular values Bollywood once stood firm with.

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The dangers to his reputation as an actor got extended to his real-life personhood when he was heckled both by the media and the institutional apparatus in the Marijuana possession case of Aryan Khan. Shahrukh Khan was declining, and he needed a star vehicle to catapult him back to where he had always belonged, a pedestal accorded to him from the unconditional love of his audience across religious lines. Shahrukh Khan is not merely an actor or a film star but also one of the only Muslims in independent India to have held considerable popular support among the masses despite embracing his religious identity in the public domain.

In a country that is getting increasingly violent against its minorities, the preservation of Shahrukh’s stardom is of insurmountable cultural importance. The rise of intolerance must not kill India’s multiculturalism and must not take away the right the minorities have always had to the country’s cultural capital. Pathaan might not be a counter-cultural narrative. However, the way it celebrates Shahrukh Khan in a role that has never been his previously makes the film urgent during our times. It has the power to shuttle Shahrukh back into the stars and the strength to pin him there for many years to come. The film is a reminder of Shahrukh’s cultural potency while being the instrument of his resurgence.

As we will discuss the film in detail, here’s a SPOILER ALERT!

Pathaan (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Pathaan, played by Shahrukh Khan, is an ex-soldier from the Indian army. After having served as a field operative and being left injured, he has been living in a quasi-retirement. But as they say, a soldier is never off duty. Pathaan has been researching and establishing contact with all field operatives who were left injured and pulled from service but still have the fire to die for their nation. He approaches his senior Nandini to form a JOCR: Joint Operations and Covert Research team under India’s R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) with all such agents. It isn’t long before JOCR gets intel on the movements of a private terror group, Outfit X, run by Jim, played by John Abraham, an ex-agent presumed dead who has gone rogue after losing his family to Somalian pirates.

Pathaan is joined by Rubina Mohsin, an ISI agent played by Deepika Padukone, in his mission to stop Outfit X from achieving its goal of spreading a deadly lab-generated virus across an unnamed city in India. The looming threat is graver since the terror outfit doesn’t work for a motive but money. Therefore, it has no moral compass constrained or congested by politico-religious ideology. Whether Pathaan manages to stop Jim is not a mystery, but the mystery is of “how” and if the danger is only how it appears.

Who is Jim in the YRF Spy Universe?

Jim was one of the finest agents alongside Kabir. In one of the rescue missions, he singlehandedly extracted six hostages from the clutches of Somalian pirates. In a bid to seek revenge for the hurt and humiliation, the pirates kidnapped his wife and demanded ransom from the Indian government. The Indian state turned apathetic and refused to negotiate with terrorists, causing the murders of his wife and unborn child. Jim lost his love for the nation and made it his life’s mission to put the government in a situation of helplessness akin to his and to leave them with the same degree of sorrow and hurt.

You can’t have a more potent antagonist than one of the hero’s kind, existing in a cinematic duality, who went rogue. And a true blue patriot cannot go rogue unless the “fridging” trope is employed because the motivation to turn your back on the nation can blossom only on the graves of your dead ones. Jim is as competent a spy and as proficient a soldier as Kabir (played by Hrithik Roshan in War), which is what makes him dangerous.

Utilizing the classic duality mimical of Skyfall’s (2012) James Bond and Raoul Silva with fates knitted by a senior commanding officer, Siddharth Anand gives Pathaan and Jim equal footing wherein both characters are as fascinated by each other’s past as threatened they are by each other’s future.

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What is Jim’s plan?

Jim needs to extract Raktbeej from a high-security Russian vault. Pathaan, having no information on what Raktbeej is but only wisdom to know its lethality, finds himself bound to reach the inside of the vault before Jim. Rubina is also after Raktbeej, representing her country’s secret service. The rogue nature of Outfit X endangers Pakistan and India alike. It pushes them to collaborate. Alas, the collaboration isn’t necessarily what it appears to be, as betrayals are always an astounding possibility. Jim uses Pathaan to steal the vial of “smallpox” from the Russian vault, kept in every country’s research facility as a disaster prevention protocol.

Pathaan (2023) Movie Ending Explained (2)

He plans to mutate the virus and drop the mutated strain in an undisclosed Indian city in exchange for money. The client is the radical faction of ISI seeking vengeance for the abrogation of Article 370. The antagonist is complex, not with his deviated ideological praxis but because his methods do not reveal who his allies are. Or perhaps there are no allies for a corporatized terror group. Jim is rewarded with foresight, and his set pieces are meticulously designed. He is not someone who makes empty threats; therefore, Pathaan is constantly exercising to figure out his plans and foil them.

Why does Pathaan trust Rubina?

Rubina belongs to Pakistan’s ISI, a country with which India shares a complex and hostile history. Pakistan has never been a strong diplomatic ally to India, so Pathaan is strategically advised against teaming up with Rubina. But Rubina is a manifestation of patriotism herself, a soldier who is motivated first by cause and then by country. Born to a journalist father who was tortured and killed for his allegiance to truth, Rubina can tell right from wrong. Pathaan is described by Colonel Sunil Luthra, played by Ashutosh Rana, to be a man who uses his heart more than his mind.

Driven more by emotionality and less by rationality, Pathaan invests trust in Rubina even after her betrayal because he can differentiate between the action of a soldier from that of a terrorist. The decision to keep the supporting side belonging to Pakistan and assign her the same guiding principles as those of Pathaan establishes value neutrality in the story which has its own political significance.

On the one hand, it dilutes the extremely hostile sentiment against Pakistan, partly based on reality but majorly on propaganda, for the audience by assimilating its character with that of one’s own and otherizing only a radical faction operating within it. On the other hand, it also serves the right wing by adhering to the trope of a Pakistani enemy.

Similarly, it doesn’t pander to the stereotypical-Muslim-terrorist-as-antagonist trope, much normalized by Bollywood’s conformity to the political landscape and the cause of profiteering, by fleshing its antagonist from a rogue agent. Moreover, it also escapes scrutiny by attaching a non-Hindu name to the terrorist. Pathaan trusts Rubina because, in this universe, nationalistic pride is detached from one’s religion and Muslims, who are persecuted within the system as much as outside of it, are present in abundance in the spy universe, ready and able to sacrifice themselves for their nation. After all, trust in a Muslim’s patriotism has to be confirmed by evidence, and it can never be implied.

Pathaan (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:

Jim successfully outwits Indian intelligence and locks the fate of the entire population of an Indian city by launching the orb containing the virus via a passenger airplane in a covert manner. The orb will detonate once the countdown is over, and the only remote that can stop it is possessed by him. In a race against time, Pathaan has to better Jim and stop the bomb from ticking further. The Indian government is trapped in the trolley problem.

The antagonist has won the battle of wits, which is now a battle of brute force. Jim has all clear advantages, but his motivations are ideologically hollow, unlike Pathaan’s. This also acts as a source of courage for Pathaan, who manages to snatch the remote from Jim and stop the calamity. Pathaan’s JOCR gets reinstated and approved for an expansion, with Pathaan being assigned direct command over the unit.

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Does Jim die in the end?

In a clever composition, Jim is seen falling from a hilltop where death seems inevitable. He also embraces his death with last salutations to Pathaan’s “Bharat Maa.” But there is no way to confirm his death and no reason to believe that the YRF Spy Universe will not reuse its antagonists as much as it is using its protagonists.

John Abhraman is a limited actor and has indeed worsened in recent times. So his performance as Jim doesn’t shine bright. Nevertheless, Jim works fine as a smart, strong, and skilled antagonist that elevates the thrill. Pathaan belongs to Jim as well. In all likelihood but purely in speculative terms, Jim can get employed again.

Read More: Pathaan (2023) Review: An Action-Packed, Bollywood Blockbuster Worth the Wait

Watch Pathaan (2023) Movie Trailer

Pathaan (2023) Movie Links – IMDb, Wikipedia
Pathaan (2023) Movie Cast – Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham

Where to watch Pathaan

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