- Release Date: – 25/01/2023
- Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham
- Director: – Siddharth Anand
I liked some of the last few films of Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) that the critics and the fans were not particularly kind to. Raees, Fan, and Zero to me were decent films that got buried under the weight of unjustified expectations and the inability of the fans to accept SRK for anything else other than what has made him popular among his fans. Thus, in desperation and thirsting for a definitive blockbuster that has eluded him for years now, SRK turned to play a character that he knew would strike a chord with the people who want to see him in a specific avatar. The direction for this project was handed over to a man who has over the years made two films with Hrithik Roshan that were as shallow as cinema could be but were hyper-stylized and ticked all the boxes that would keep the fans of Hrithik happy. Thus, we have a new film from SRK after a gap of 4 years. Pathaan in all eventuality will be a blockbuster but will undeniably be one of SRK’s weakest films in recent times after Jab Harry Met Sejal.
Lack of serious stakes in the narrative and complete absence of tension for the safety of the protagonist: –
This has been a recurring problem with most mass Bollywood films and it becomes a much bigger problem in a film of this nature where the thrill elements can only be extracted from the story and underlying drama when there is genuine fear for the safety of the hero. As has been the case, the screenplay doesn’t forget to make a mockery of itself and the very predicament that it is trying to use to extract thrill and tension. In the few instances where the hero does land up in some trouble, he is out of it most heroically before you can bat an eyelid and then quickly starts making jokes about the predicament altogether. This didn’t go down well with me as I was unable to feel the weight of the enormous challenge that Pathaan was up against. The film does make it a point to kill off a character or two from time to time but the writing is never able to create the kind of connection between these characters and the audience that would make us care for their deaths.
Poorly envisioned and generic antagonist whose back story is laughable: –
If you want to know about how Somalian pirates operate and what is their socio-economic condition, all you need to do is watch a few YouTube videos. To have Somalian pirates kidnap a family as pre-planned revenge and then murder just one member and let the other more dangerous member live was laughably inept. Thus, the back story of the antagonist fizzled out for me almost instantaneously. Add to that a typical and generic John Abraham performance where he has to put in a visible effort to look menacing and cool at the same juncture and we have a stereotypical villain that we have seen a million times before in mass Bollywood films. The fact that the film doesn’t give him a lot of time to interact with SRK’s Pathaan for obvious reasons makes his impact even lesser.
The cringe-worthy romantic track between SRK and Deepika: –
In Chennai Express (2013), the gradual development of the romance between SRK and Deepika that was further dipped in organic and well-written situational comedy worked wonders for me. Putting aside the age gap between the two, their interactions felt real and heartfelt and the two always trying to get one up on each other was cute and effective in more ways than one. In Pathaan, all that is lost. What we are left with is some cringeworthy dialogues and forced comedy between the two that are utterly frustrating. The obnoxious expressions that the two visibly try to put on and sell as organic romance brewing between two people in dire circumstances also failed miserably and were a source of embarrassment and discomfort. Deepika does well in the physical bits but I have seen her act a lot better in other films. She literally catwalks through her essay mouthing the lines given to her without any feel for them.
Terrible Comedy and poorly done special appearance: –
A film like this didn’t need any comedy in the first place. If putting the same was unavoidable, it should have been done better. I hated every comedic moment in this film. It all felt so farcical and forced that it was bound to be a source of irritation than laughs. Even veteran actors like Dimple Kapadia and Ashutosh Rana are not spared and they are forced to try their hands at comedy where there was a need for none. SRK has his own brand of comedy and he has been doing that in every film in which he has been asked to do comedy. In some cases, like Chennai Express, his brand of comedy worked, and in others like here, it didn’t.
This is no secret anymore. Salman Khan appears in a cameo as Tiger and that little portion of the film was just as terribly envisioned and executed as the rest of the film. Picture this! Pathan is about to be brutally murdered on a Russian train. Tiger arrives to save him with a cup of coffee in one hand and painkillers in the other as he casually beats the numerous goons around him. The two then proceed to beat up all the villains while always having relaxed expressions on their faces and carrying out sarcastic banter. Imagine, what could that do to the tension and thrill of this particular sequence? While the fans of the two will go berserk in this sequence (that wasn’t the case in the theater where I was watching the film), this sequence has no heroism, swagger, or style because of how it was envisioned and executed. Siddharth Anand (director) and Sridhar Raghavan (writer) should have cooked up something stunning for a sequence where two of Bollywood’s biggest stars ever were to appear together. This scene came and went without leaving any impact on me.
Unoriginal and predictable plot: –
A film of this nature needed a better plot. A story that should have been simple but also somewhat original and investing. There are recycled stories too that are investing because of how the proceedings unfold. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. While the film moves at a breakneck speed, there is nothing in the proceedings to surprise, thrill, and fill us up with tension and expectations. You can sense plot twists from a mile away and that mars the fun of almost all the major twists. The film moves in a predictable direction and culminates exactly how you expect it to. Worse, a lot of the plot elements feel borrowed from other Bollywood films.
Lack of heroism and mass moments: –
True heroism and power in mass-elevation moments come from genuine and serious stakes in the narrative. The best examples of these are KGF 2 (2022) and Vikram (2022). While Siddharth Anand peppers his film with moments that are meant to make the audiences go crazy, he forgets to lace these moments with buildups, genuine thrill, and tension that comes from seeing the protagonist in a genuinely vulnerable and compromised state. The result is scene after scene of mass elevation that is only propelled by the hero worship of SRK or Salman (in one scene) and is not earned through storytelling and drama. I am neither a Salman Khan fan nor an SRK fan and hence these moments were a complete disaster for me.
Poor and revealing visual effects: –
Many critics are going gaga over the visual effects of this film. I am forced to ask myself whether they saw the same film that I saw or not because the one I saw was mediocre at best. Every scene where there is some CGI involved is so on your face and poorly done that it immediately takes you out of the experience. I also don’t understand Bollywood’s fascination with Jetpacks. Every time it has been tried in Bollywood or in South Indian films, it has never worked. Hollywood could pull it off successfully once in the case of the character of Falcon in MCU and that too after a lot of permutation and combination. The finale in Pathaan has the hero and villain fight it out wearing jetpacks and it looks painfully fake destroying what should have been the most thrilling altercation between the two in the film. The other sequences involving the two on top of a moving car in Dubai and another sequence where SRK and Salman fight it out on top of a train felt equally fake. The chase sequence on ice was pulled off with some efficiency.
Final Words: –
Pathaan is already a resounding hit and it is a good thing for a faltering Bollywood. However, it is so because of the blind fans of SRK and the ones who boarded the hype- train without giving it much thought. The film will continue to pull in crowds till Sunday. Coupled with the criminally inflated prices of the tickets, it will definitely be a blockbuster. However, for anyone who is able to keep aside the hero worship and look at the film objectively, it will be evident what an enormous waste of time and money this film is. This is easily one of SRK’s weakest films of late and nearly put me to sleep. If you want to save your precious bucks and time, stay clear of this yawn fest.