Pathaan (2023) Review
Some wise person once said- ‘There are stars, and then there is Shahrukh Khan.’
When SRK returns to the big screen after a four-year, one-month, and four-day hiatus, the fans are bound to go crazy. Power-packed with a plethora of high-octane combat sequences, Siddharth Anand’s ‘Pathaan’ is not only a swift action thriller but is dotted with charismatic screen performances delivered by ace actors. A menagerie of drama, action, humor, and fan-tasmic chasm of King Khan, the film is a coherent action-packed, pure entertainer with all ingredients to be a Bollywood blockbuster.
The film is a story about two ex-Indian soldiers, one who would take a bullet for the country, Pathaan, and the other who seeks vengeance, Jim. The story starts in August 2019 when India’s repeal of Article 370 triggers Pakistan’s vendetta against India. Pakistani General Qadir hires Jim, an ex-Indian Vir Puruskar awardee who went rogue after being betrayed by his own country, to carry out mission vengeance.
Following the orders of the Pakistani General but also acting to avenge the injustice done to him by his own motherland, Jim devises a virus called ‘Raktbeej’ that kills at an exponentially faster rate than the COVID-19 virus. The plan is to plant ‘Raktbeej’ in Delhi and destroy the heart of the country. The solution to saving the country is to stop Jim from carrying out the mission. Of course, India’s trump card to stop the wild villain is Pathaan. And helping him in this endeavor is the skilled and sultry ex-ISI agent- Rubina Mohsin.
What follows are dangerous revenge games, betrayal, backstabbing, and a series of meticulously choreographed and incredibly imaginative action sequences that spill onto the screen almost like poetry. There is a car chase sequence and a top-of-the-truck combat scene, a battle of the choppers, one scene on the ice skates and bikes, and another in the snow. You think of an action sequence- most likely, Pathaan has it! Besides that, it also has songs, dances, dramas, emotions, and so much more. One of the strong points about Pathaan is that Anand did not let it get too preachy, unlike the typical patriotic thriller films.
Aside from all the action and storyline, King Khan’s Pathaan carries a screen presence so magnanimous that it is hard to blink, lest you miss a second. John Abraham’s Jim and Deepika Padukone’s Rubina Mohsin are backed by strong motives adding an interesting intent to the plot. Besides, the best part about the secondary characters is that they do not get lost in the magnitude of the movie. You will applaud and cheer for both when Abraham and Khan fight each other, hanging off a chopper. And, despite having little trajectory and room to experiment in her role, Deepika Padukone owns it in her own way. Special mention to Dimple Kapadia and Ashutosh Rana for leaving a mark within their little time.
Besides, Pathaan is an extension of YRF’s spy verse following Salman Khan’s ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ and Hrithik Roshan’s ‘War.’ It’s encouraging to see this indigenous universe being built after being acquainted with the West’s MCU. In addition, the characters are partially inspired by the west, and you will see glimpses of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Scarlett Johanssen’s quintessential combat flicks at sporadic intervals. It’s almost like a tribute to the classics, and it works.
In addition to being a medley of enchanting combat sequences, Pathaan is also rife with plot twists that will leave you in jolts. If you think the best surprise comes halfway, wait for the one in mid-credits. Hint: you will be transported back to the Karan-Arjun days. Not just this, the globetrotting film takes you on a ride to various parts of the world to accomplish the mission, boasting picturesque aesthetics in the process. The music score deserves special mention, especially in the film’s first half, as it makes the film’s treatment more cosmopolitan and adds to the charm. The VFX is on point, and the hi-tech world of the film is appropriately balanced out without making it over the top.
Furthermore, it is a delight to see some of the old ‘kkkkiran’ and ‘dekho police to nahi hai yahan kyunki tum bomb lag rahi ho’ dialogues. I can’t imagine this level of humorous writing working anywhere else but with this set of actors and this kind of setting. Paying a hint of homage to his legacy at certain intervals, Shahrukh Khan is undoubtedly a greater energy than the film itself. If you are an SRK fanatic, you would also find glimpses of his old romantic self at patchy intervals; the intensity in his eyes would remind you of his golden days, and the fight sequence on top of the train would definitely remind you of ‘Chaiya Chaiya’ but in a much different way of course.
Best described as a spectacle rather than just a film, it would be safe to say that action overrides the story, and there is not much of a plot. But then again, Pathaan is an idiosyncratic Bollywood masala film that is meant to be taken in a light spirit and will surely keep you on your toes through and through. If you want to get too critical, then maybe one could say that the last half dragged a bit and could have been cut short by 20 minutes. But since the film’s pace was such, and there were these glam and glorious actors on screen, one wouldn’t mind the length too much. All in all, it is one hell of an entertainer and the perfect beginning to the long weekend ahead.
If you ask me, I will say it as Pathaan did- ‘I had a blast. How about you?’