PATHAAN: What the movie means for SRK, Bollywood and India

PATHAAN…the biggest blockbuster in the history of Indian Cinema. The movie marked the comeback of Shah Rukh Khan on the big screen after a gap of more than four years. As was anticipated how could I have missed writing on the movie, which was the main ‘talking point’ in the media for so long? The movie defeated all the boycott calls and came out victorious and successful. So here is my detailed analysis.

Movie Review

I know I don’t have much credibility to review an SRK film because everybody knows how big a FAN I am…HA HA. I will be talking about all the aspects of the movie one by one. Mainly, watching SRK back on screen after so long, was so eye pleasing and ravishing experience.

Story: The protagonist spy named ‘Pathaan’ is on a mission to save the country from the threats of a chemical attack being carried out by the villain Jim. Now, Jim also happens to be an ex-RAW agent who has stood up against his country because of his emotional backstory (I won’t reveal that for now). Deepika’s character of Rubina is an ISI agent who although was a part of Jim’s plans, but comes on Pathaan’s side after she comes to know the impact on humanity, Jim’s steps will lead to (I am hiding something here too). What happens next is a thing you should enjoy in cinema halls. To be honest, the overall story was also quite normal, nothing new and some parts of the story were WEAK. But the story isn’t the first thing we go for in a spy thriller movie, and nor did the movie at any point in time promise a heart-touching story. Right?

Direction: Siddharth Anand is quite an expert in directing high-octane action spectacles. But directing Pathaan was a big responsibility because it was SRK’s comeback after four years, that too after a spat of underperforming movies for a decade (barring a couple). But, it has to be said, Siddharth has done a very fine job. The way he mounted the actions, the way he gave the characters room, and the way he kept the screenplay and editing fast and crisp, made the movie an entertaining watch. Overall, he did a fantastic job in presenting SRK in the never seen avatar in a grand comeback.

Hottie Deepika in Pathaan Trailer

Deepika Padukone doing intense action in the movie (Photo: India Today)

Performances: Shah Rukh Khan…in and as Pathaan. Do I even need to say anything about him other than that he was phenomenal, refreshing and full of energy. Coming in an all-out action avatar (which he says was his dream) was something very unique and there is not an iota of doubt that the Bollywood Baadshah nailed it. Actually, SRK makes up for quite a unique action star. It is because unlike his contemporaries he doesn’t mind getting beaten up by the villain, because of which his action doesn’t seem one-sided and looks more realistic. As a popular column wrote, “SRK comes in the form, only after he gets a little dirty and stained with blood”.

Deepika Padukonethe glamorous and yet so powerful ISI agent Rubina. Between two powerful male leads, she was able to do as solid an action as them. Plus, she also portrayed her emotionally vulnerable side to perfection. Although, her change of thoughts was a little too fast and could have been brought out better.

John Abraham…a villain which no one in the audience was able to hate. His backstory gave a very emotional touch to his side of the story. Capitalising on that, his superb performance further made people rejoice in him on screen. It won’t at all be an exaggeration to say that ‘Jim’ is the part that makes Pathaan (movie) so interesting. I couldn’t have even imagined that I would EVER end up falling in love with a villain who is fighting against my own favourite SRK…but well John did the unimaginable. Overall…a big shout out to him and I wish to see him in many more such powerful and layered roles.

King Khan Rules As Shah Rukh Khan Breaks 10 Massive Box Office Records With Pathaan's Insane Biz

John Abraham during his bone-chilling entry in Pathaan (Photo: MensXP)

Action: Well…this was the element, people went in for. The action was mind-boggling and at par with any world-class film. Whether it was action on the ice, on the train, or in the air. Plus, the action that was followed during the cameo of Salman Khan, I can bet, that a 15-minute cameo can solely garner a huge sum if it releases separately. Karan and Arjun were so good to watch together. But, here my little complaint was with VFX. It was good…but there were some scenes, where it could have definitely been better…especially when SRK has set such high standards in VFX with FAN, ZERO and Ra-One. Anyways, the action overall is a visual spectacle made for cinema halls.

Music: There are only two songs in the movie, and both are good. While ‘Besharam Rang’ is a tepid party track, ‘Jhoome Jo Pathaan’ is extremely groovy in nature. Although the songs are not like any of the songs we expect from an SRK film, still they are nice and do justice to what the movie demands. The main power in the music section is the two themes of the characters Pathaan and Jim, both are contrary and extremely bombastic. The background music during the action scenes and some emotional scenes is also very very well-made and gives more power to the narrative. And…Jim’s entry with that whistling “Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon”  was just so gad damn CHILLING (using music contrary to situation).

So, overall in my view the movie is epic, as I said above. Well…I don’t believe in giving ‘stars’ or ‘one-word reviews’. I more believe in elaborating my thoughts on various aspects of the film…which I did. And, if something describes a big screen action spectacle, then Pathaan is just that.

Pathan trailer lights up at Burj Khalifa Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone fans impressed tmovf

Pathaan trailer took over the Burj Khalifa (Photo: Reet Feed

Symbolism and Notes

Despite being a masala action thriller, the movie did have several subtle messages. Whether it was the Raktabeej (the demon in Hindu mythology which emerged from every drop of his blood falling on the ground) reference to the hate that spreads like wildfire in the country. And the Kintsugi (Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with molten gold) reference to how love moulds everything that is broken in society. Also…the use of JF Kennedy’s line Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”  was a cherry on top.

There were several SRK references too, whether it was “He was our centre forward” (Chak De! India) or the “Tu hai meri ‘Caren”’ (Darr). Not just that, when Pathaan says that he was left by his parents in a ‘cinema hall’ and this country nurtured him and he is repaying his country by serving it. It was a clear summary of SRK’s life, whose parents died early, after which he gave his life to movies, the country loved him and made him the star he is today, and he is just repaying his fans and admirers through his movies. In addition to this, the movie also had a subtle Indo-Pak friendship message. It showed neither everybody in Pakistan is bad (Rubina vs ISI Chief), nor everybody in India is good (Pathaan vs Jim), and that the two countries can work together with love and without hatred. Also, for making a patriotic movie and for loving our India, you don’t actually need to demonise or hate Pakistan.

Mumbai's iconic Maratha Mandir theater screens 'Pathaan' alongside 'DDLJ'

Shah Rukh Khan’s DDLJ and PATHAAN running at same theatre (Photo: NewsBytes)

Reception amid Comeback

By the time of writing this Pathaan has already amassed more than Rs 400 crores in India and over 700 crores gross worldwide. Interestingly, these numbers are considered a ‘Dream’ and benchmark of success for any movie. But Pathaan has got to this number in a matter of just a week making it nothing but a mockery of the whole Box Office. By all expectations, it will become Bollywood’s first 500 crores film and garner more than 1000 crores worldwide without releasing in China. All this is enough to give it the tag of ‘All-time Blockbuster’ and the biggest movie in the history of Indian cinema.

Now, there is something beyond the box office as well, and that is people’s affection. Pathaan has literally created EUPHORIA among the public. After the first few shows, the distributors had to increase the number of screens for the movie. Shows even ran as early as 6:30 in the morning and till as late as 12:30 at night. Many dead cinema halls have come alive after this movie. Not just that, videos have emerged showing people dancing in cinema halls, coming in trucks and celebrating it like a festival. Also, much more importantly, Pathaan has broken the ‘myth’ that was created by some, that SOUTH cinema has overtaken Bollywood. After a very very long, almost all major records of Indian cinema belong to Bollywood again…all thanks to its KING.

Boycott Pathaan row: How it began and what's happening now

Pathaan faced heavy boycotts from India’s increasingly emboldened Right Wing (Photo:

Boycott and Politics

To the surprise, Pathaan has made such numbers despite the extreme level of boycott faced by any film in history. Just like any other SRK movie, Pathaan too was mired in controversy right from the beginning. Some Twitter handles were boycotting its ‘Fan Made Teaser’ even before the movie was announced. The Boycott only increased as the announcement was made. Finally, as the first song from the movie ‘Besharam Rang’ was released, the Haters gang saw a jackpot. They started claiming that since Deepika Padukone has worn a saffron bikini (in addition to around 10 different coloured dresses) in some 20 seconds of the 3:30 minute song, it is an insult to the Hindu religion. If such things come from some ‘fringe elements’ its a different thing. But, here ministers and senior leaders were openly giving threats to the movie and the hate-monger right-wing outfits were carrying out hooliganism across the country. Well…in this regime, ‘fringe’ is the ‘mainstream’.

But it seems the jackpot turned out to be a mirage, as for understanding the logic behind the ‘Boycott Movement’, one needed to be extremely brainless. People did turn out for the movie in large numbers. Now, it is not a defeat for the ruling party in ‘electoral terms’, because a majority of the public watches movies solely for ‘entertainment’ and not for making a political statement (some do). But, at the same time, it also means, that a huge majority don’t look at the surname or religion of the actor before watching a movie. It also means that the hatred might have increased in the last few years, but it is not that high that people will boycott a movie just because the protagonist is a Muslim.

Pathaan Soars High as Islamophobes' Hate Campaigns Hit Rock Bottom | NewsClick

Shah Rukh Khan in a patriotic and emotional still from the movie (Photo: NewsClick)

SRK’s Statement to the Dystopian Regime

The current regime has unexplainable hate for every single Muslim (mainly Mughal) identity attached to this country. As we have consistently noticed in the ‘renamings’, crackdowns and impositions. Under this principle, they don’t want to see ‘Muslims’ as popular Bollywood actors. This is not new, even during the 1999-2004 NDA government, RSS wrote in its mouthpiece Panchjanya that we should promote Hrithik Roshan above the “Three Khans” (PS: I like Hrithik). As a result, SRK has constantly seen heavy attacks from the ruling party and other right-wing outfits.

One of the other major reasons why SRK is hated so much in particular by them is that he in a way represents the Idea and Value, the country stands for. A Muslim man, married to a Hindu, who taught his children about both religions, always talks about peace and harmony, and above all, is loved by millions around the country. SRK’s father was a freedom fighter, grandfather was a part of the Indian National Army (INA), so today those writing “love letters” to the British don’t have the right to question his patriotism. Even SRK’s patriotic movies (Swades, Chak De India) are also much more meaningful and realistic, instead of the regular Jingoism movies.

On the other hand, Shah Rukh Khan has always been expressive politically though in a modest way. He advocated for Pakistani players to be allowed in IPL, he spoke against Israeli attacks on Palestine and on similar lines, he also spoke about the rising “intolerance” in the country. But unlike other regimes, this one doesn’t have the appetite for criticism. Since that day, SRK was an enemy for them. Fake News regarding SRK started flooding social media, every movie of his faced boycott campaigns, stones were thrown at his house, his effigies were burnt and in 2021, his son Aryan Khan spent nearly a month in jail on “false and fabricated” drug charges.

But all through these years, SRK chose to remain silent. He refused to make any political statements and didn’t even speak during his son’s arrest. Many even questioned him, for not speaking up. At the same time, SRK didn’t bow down in front of the regime by becoming a sycophant. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he wasn’t seen with the radical Chief Ministers and nor did he join the ‘Internal Matter’ brigade. It was in a way SRK’s ‘Silent Rebellion’ as a popular magazine also wrote. However, SRK had another idea to give a befitting reply to the regime. Well…nothing can hurt their ego and hateful arrogance more than watching a movie with the title ‘PATHAAN’, (a Muslim name) becoming the biggest Indian movie, making burnols run out of stock and putting an end to their ‘nurtured’ Boycott campaign. And, that’s what exactly happened. This was just SRK’s way of giving a reply for all that he has endured over the years. And yes…SRK Haters can very well do what Arnab Goswami asked the ‘Tak’ channel to do (IYKYK).

Pathaan - SRK's 'Pathaan' sets cash register ringing with Rs 55 crore opening, highest for any Hindi movie - Telegraph India

Shah Rukh Khan in his signature pose in Pathaan (Photo: Telegraph India)

Love Letter to SRK

Before Pathaan’s release, many SRK haters were messaging me and putting status against Pathaan and challenging that it will be a Flop. I had thought at that time, that once the movie turns out successful, I will send them big ‘middle finger emojis’ and ‘FO’ messages. But, trust me once the movie actually became a success, I didn’t feel like doing it. Maybe that’s what SRK is, he makes you feel victorious but never hateful. Only SRK could have been able to defeat all this much hate with Love. Even after the movie, he didn’t forget to give the message of harmony and peace with the Amar Akbar Anthony reference. Once again, SRK won and HATE lost.

Now, as I have come to the end of my article, I have some words for Shah Rukh Khan. First of all…thank you so much for coming back on screen. Nothing can make me happier than watching the reason for my happiness is so happy. Regarding what I want or expect from him. Well, I would love him in almost anything. But, yes personally, I do want more deep-acting movies, where I can just drown in SRK’s world. As I love Kabir Khan or Mohan Bhargav more than Pathaan. But, it is also the fact that SRK’s attempts lately in trying ‘different’ movies didn’t earn him box office success, so, now one shouldn’t be complaining. But I am also sure that many acting-oriented movies will also be coming and are actually on the way. Anyways…as now the King of Bollywood is back…I couldn’t help but relish the streak of entertaining movies he will be bringing for all of us.


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