Director: Siddharth Anand
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and John Abraham
When ageing superstars come back after a sabbatical of sorts, the best return vehicle, it would seem, is action adventure types where high-octane fight setpieces drive the narrative.
Last year we saw this in Tamil thespian Kamal Haasan’s massive hit Vikram. And in Pathaan, Shah Rukh Khan is returning to the big screen after a brief hiatus and has also taken recourse to a plot that is full of pulsating adrenaline-pumping action choreography. And laced into this is an intelligent reinforcement of his real-life identity — an important nugget considering the political climate in India now — like in one of his previous films Hey Ram! This adds a touch of political gravitas to an otherwise typical crowd-pleasing entertainer.
Shoe-horned into this espionage story are the characters from other YRF (Yash Raj Films) movies like Salman Khan’s Avinash ‘Tiger’ Singh Rathore (Ek Tha Tiger) and Hrithik Roshan’s Kabir Dhaliwal (War) and this provides the film with a further attraction.
Even though the treatment and action sequences are over-the-top, director Siddharth Anand has been adroit enough to keep Pathaan’s storyline contemporary and actually relatable. The plot takes off from India’s revocation of Article 370, which is recent and a plot point untried in Indian cinema. The story is otherwise predictable, but for a mainstream masala movie, it works, at least to a large extent.
A Pakistani officer is stirred up by the developments in Kashmir. He wants to teach India a lesson, as it were. As it happens in such movies, he reaches out to a rogue agent Jim (John Abraham), who has fallen afoul of his previous team, the Indian RAW (Research And Analysis) wing. He has a point to prove and joins forces with a former ISI agent Rubai (Deepika Padukone). But she is an enigma. The two irresistible forces meet the immovable object in Pathaan; the Indian army officer turned RAW agent (Shah Rukh Khan).
Pathaan is a no-holds-barred, no-emotions-given fight to finish as the three battle it out across countries and continents. There is a bit of Bond, Mission Impossible and Bourne franchises as the story unspools. Of course, all of them are high on action and also bank on the charm and style of the leading man. Here too, it is no different.
SRK, with his chiselled physique (those oiled muscles are a treat to watch), loose hair and aviator glasses, looks like a Greek God on deputation to the Indian undercover espionage team. The man, who will be 60 in a couple of years, seems to be on a secret elixir as he looks the part of a brave and bustling combat commando. His jousts with John Abraham, another sculpted muscle man, is a quintessential masala movie staple. Nothing new or original, but it provides plenty of excitement, which in a sense, can also be the summation of the film.
Pathaan basically belongs to SRK’s unbounded energy and his ability to sell even unbelievable action set pieces with uncanny commitment. John Abraham has a meaty antagonist role, and he has not let go of the chance he has got. Deepika looks ravishing, even if her character is a little under-cooked. Of course, Salman’s arrival has the cinema hall flooded with whistles and hoots of approval.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.