Pathaan Review: Shah Rukh Khan Gets His Groove Back
Pathaan: Where SRK Gets His Groove Back

Pathaan is mass Bollywood entertainer done right

Director:  Siddharth Anand
Writers: Shridhar Raghavan, Abbas Tyrewala and Siddharth Anand
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham, Dimple Kapadia, and Ashutosh Rana
Stars: 4 stars


Pathaan is not his real name. He is an orphan; his parents abandoned him at a movie theatre. To him, his country is his mother. His love for mother India is unconditional. To serve the motherland, he joins the army. That’s his backstory.


Cut to present: India has just scrapped Article 370, triggering the already triggered neighbours. A rogue ex-RAW agent, Jim (John Abraham) has taken a contract from Pakistan to wreak havoc on India by unleashing a lab-created mutated version of smallpox virus in the country. The virus, dubbed Raktbeej, is supposed to be deadlier than the Covid-19 and to be first stolen from a Russian facility. Pathaan, (Shah Rukh Khan) an undercover agent, is assigned by India to stop Jim. He meets ex-ISI agent, Rubia (Deepika Padukone) who becomes his ally, but can the femme fatale be trusted?


The fourth film in the YRF Spy Universe, Pathaan is the first YRF film to have a crossover with the protagonist of their Tiger franchise making a brief appearance. This essentially means, after Karan Arjun, one gets to see the two Khans (Shah Rukh and Salman) team up for some cool action scenes. And their bromance is exquisite. If SRK and Deepika have sizzling chemistry, it is Shah Rukh and Salman together they set the screens on fire. I was not ready for this kind of a Salman Khan cameo for sure!



The smug, sarcastic, and a bit scruffy SRK of Pathaan is not the dimpled lover boy of the ’90s. At 57, he is an action hero out to save the world, albeit armed with painkillers. There is also a hilarious reference to one of the iconic dialogues of SRK’s 1993 movie Darr. SRK proves his timeless charm in this timezone-shifting action thriller.  This is a Shah Rukh Khan movie where the actor seems to have got his mojo back.


The post-credit scene shows an exhausted Pathaan sitting down with his long-time friend and comrade, discussing that it’s been 30 years they are doing this and maybe it is time for them to hang their boots. But the duo soon realizes that ‘in bachcho ke haath mein nahi chhod sakte yeh sab’.  It is not just Pathaan but Shah Rukh Khan (who made his big-screen debut in 1992, 31 years back) pointing out that in these dark times, Bollywood needs its Khans to keep it afloat. It is no child’s play.



Deepika looks stunning; her kohl-laden intelligent eyes, tall stature (she puts her unending legs to good use), and athletic build brilliantly complement the character she is playing on the screen. She looks every bit like a Hollywood action star as the Pakistani spy. John with his wooden expressions is strangely a perfect fit to play Jim. Even in his Dostana shorts, he is every bit the menacing and formidable supervillain Pathaan needs as an opposition to turn him into a larger-than-life hero.


Dimple Kapadia plays M to SRK’s Bond-like Pathaan. And she proves once again why Bollywood should utilise her more (it’s a shame how an actor of her caliber was wasted in Brahmāstra). Ashutosh Rana is not his usual loud self and is a joy to watch.


Pathaan is a smorgasbord of backstories and action set pieces. While the high-octane gravity and logic-defying action sequences are fun to watch, the only backstory that seems well fleshed out and adds to the main plot is how Jim, a top-notch RAW agent, became this mean and vengeful killing machine.  The screenplay by Shridhar Raghavan with its non-linear narrative often becomes confusing. There is just too much happening, involving too many countries and timeframes. It is Abbas Tyrewala’s dialogues (especially the witty one-liners), laced with humour and occasionally peppered with patriotic fervor, which makes the film such a full-on masala entertainer.



The cinematography by Satchith Paulose is as stunning as the exotic locales. Aarif Sheikh’s editing is sharp but even at 146 minutes, the film loses pace multiple times and takes way too long to arrive at the climax. This movie is all about its action set pieces and the money shots, and kudos to the stunt team including the body double of the stars for such flawless executions. The same can’t however be said for the VFX team which lets down the vision of the stunt director multiple times with shoddy work on their part. But what really disappoints is the background score. The most serious of the scenes have this hilarious BGM that not only snaps you out of the moment but transports you into a Minion world. One wonders if the Besharam Rang song would have made any impact at all if not for the lame and bizarre controversy. And Jhoome Jo Pathaan is worse. Even the songs of War weren’t that great but the choreography made those songs stand out (of course, it helped that the movies had two of the country’s best dancers, Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff). But here, the choreography, although quirky, isn’t that fun (sorry, but a woman crawling on all fours isn’t really my idea of ‘sexy’) and SRK’s stylized adab wasn’t enough to save the song.


But Pathaan is as much an SRK film as it is a Siddharth Anand film. The director of action thrillers like Bang Bang! (2014) and War (2019), Anand seems to have become a master of the genre. In Pathaan, he is confident and comfortable, and that reflects on screen — every scene oozes his brand of glamour. This time he just adds some superhero elements to his macho men.





Pathaan is a tight slap across the faces of all those who were quick to write off Bollywood and SRK and claimed that the days of the stars are over. Just when Bollywood needed him the most, its biggest superstar steps up and brings his A-game. With Pathaan, Shah Rukh Khan not only makes a comeback after four years but also delivers a blockbuster.


The Siddharth Anand directorial doesn’t take itself too seriously but is dead serious about delivering paisa-vasool entertainment.  High on patriotism and low on logic, Pathaan is all about action, dialoguebaazi, style, swag, and star power.


What works: SRK’s charm, Deepika’s unending legs, and John’s (very short) shorts


What doesn’t: The Minionesque background score, the missile situation reminding one of Mr. India, and any attempt to find logic.


Go for his sizzling chemistry with Deepika Padukone; stay back for his bromance with Salman Khan, and the post-credit scene!

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