Pathaan Movie Review: First Reaction -Spoiler Alert
If you’re the cinema goer who couldn’t wait for SRK to emerge on the big screen and take your breath away with his six pack chest leaving you weak at the knees, Pathaan is for you. If watching a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible and 007 play out complete with action sequences that nudged you to laugh at the ludicrously comic acrobatics (yeah, that fight scene over a moving truck), but you relaxed into your seat because the rippling testosterone of both John Abraham and SRK was enough to vouch a dreamy kinda pretend place onscreen, then Pathaan is for you. Yes we know Daiel Craig did it too and on top of a moving train too, but you gotta agree, there was an unmistakable James Bond swag there (but we won’t say more on that). Safe to say, Chaiyyan Chaiyyan was more believable, but hey guys, ‘it’s all for love and some good old fun’, say the makers (and lots of crores, keep adding the zeros there).
The Pathaan Highs &Lows
From John Abraham sporting super short and super white swimming trunks, to jokes about the ISI budget, the film sought to amuse the average Indian cinema goer. Salman Khan x SRK was admittedly a magic pairing and the final scene though layered with comic dialogue really did make us think: Is Bollywood going to stutter, stagger and whimper its way into a mini-sized shadow of what it was after these legendary actors call it quits?
Deepika’s physical prowess and the fitness quotient of all the actors was no doubt impressive – there was enough muscle in the frame to inspire viewers to head straight for the gym after digesting their popcorn and sodas.
Pathaan was an experiment in making people laugh with an age old spy thriller formula but with a new twist – this time, we aren’t saying Pakistan is the enemy, we’re just saying they have some rogues in the ISI who want to plant an unknown, deadly virus into the Indian population in exchange for Kashmir, and we, the Indians are responsible for seeding them out.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that Pathaan, as a stand alone project, is super entertaining with all the ingredients of a masala movie. The mix of both Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan has given it the edge over others. Again, the CGI experiment with Colonel Luthra was fun and caused much laughter. The surprise elements were many and well placed; from Rubai hoodwinking Pathaan to Nandini sending him coded messages. Salman Khan’s entry was greeted with much excitement from a cinema audience starved to see these two legendary icons share the big screen!
But then again, Deepika’s presence in the film, for all practical purposes was a waste of a fine actress. She could have been so much more than just a pawn, moving from one hero to another, baring a thigh here and/or shoulder there and more to pack in the views.
Really, all this for love?
Oh don’t get so emotional girl, it’s not an anti-Pakistani narrative, say the peace makers – there was Deepika there too, the perfectly pliant (innuendo there) Pakistani ISI who played second fiddle to Pathaan and helped root out the evil machinations of extremist ISI elements. And this gun toting, bikini wearing, alcohol drinking (not niqaab wearing mind you) undercover agent couldn’t get cooler than that.
So there we stereotype our spy girl as either wearing too many clothes, or too few?
We also show Afghanistan in cohorts with India because, Muslims are brothers, unless it comes to Pakistan, then they’re alien territory. Get the drift? And to top it all, we throw Kashmir complete with Article 370 in the narrative and package a near super block buster, because, what does the Indian public want really? A super spy thriller with the power of the Khans behind them, standing tall behind the Indian flag against the eternal enemy numero uno – Pakistan, but this time, it’s not the government (it’s just the Pakistani army that’s bad).
Our Indian friends opine: “but they are showing us that all Muslims are not terrorists or bad people?” Oh, we see now! So most Muslims are not, but some are. And that’s your narrative. Yes, all people in the Pakistani Army are not bad, only some are extremists. Aah, we get it now, still trying to wrap our thick heads around the oh so deep story line.
It is sad that the Indian film narrative has not been able to progress beyond the obvious, the cliched, the predictable. In order to appear good, they have to make someone else appear bad, and that, in most cases, is either the Muslim or the Pakistani. What happened to all those wonderful stories that could have happened but they didn’t, because, well, this one would sell more?
Pathaan is a narrative Pakistanis do not take seriously?
Point to ponder: Would the other side have laughed out this story if we reversed countries and stuck to the same story?
For Pakistanis abroad who can watch the film, and there are many, watch if you leave the political narrative out of it, which is hard if you’re a Pakistani x SRK fan. Most have enjoyed the story because, perhaps, they couldn’t care less.
Pathaan is a narrative that they do not take seriously.
It is perhaps valid to say two things here: even Marvel comics and Disney create movies with a purpose now. It is because we the audience took exception to their representation that they began involving truer, more relatable versions of ourselves onscreen. That is the way to more and better cinema. And we the audiences are as responsible for not accepting below the belt story lines as makers are for writing them.
If Hollywood can do it, then why not Bollywood?
Now if you counteract this narrative and say your movie is all fun and games in Bollywood, are you then saying the script is really a slipshod way of making people laugh? Or, are you saying that you created a story, with all the rogue elements in it, but you don’t want to own it. You’d rather go the safe way and say, it’s all just for love!
It is also critical to note, since the movie had everything ‘Hollywood wanna be’ written all over it, that, Hollywood is changing the game. Representation means picking characters that people whom they represent can relate with. Be it Marvel, or The Crown on Netflix. Why then would we want to continue watching a film just to get a half-baked version of what a Pakistani or a Muslim really looks like and then, continue not to call out the film for misrepresentation?
Pakistanis universally have dismissed Indian spy narratives as just lame, masala content to be watched as a time-pass, desi entertainment with desi superstars thrown in and lots of fun. Perhaps what this lame entertainment might be doing is, feeding into the borders of both countries, encouraging a culture of nationalistic fervour that serves to deepen divides rather than blur them. Perhaps it is misrepresenting the real Pakistani? Perhaps we treat it as pure entertainment but the people who watch on the other side start believing it as real? Perhaps we will never take them seriously, which, in retrospect, is a good thing.
Why would Sharukh Khan, who has millions of Pakistani fans, take on the story? What was the need?
There was definitely a need, we suppose. The present climate in his country is need enough. Or, we would argue, the present cross border climate was enough to leave Pakistani Indian spy games out of it, but ‘the only way to overcome temptation is to give into it” – not us, Oscar Wilde talking and we guess, that’s how it is with a lucrative movie script.
Perhaps he needed to validate his patriotism, perhaps he believes it, perhaps it’s all love and entertainment for him, not to be taken seriously, perhaps he doesn’t care what his fans across the border think.
There have been many anti Pakistani narratives out of a country except this time, it was SRK. When a global superstar chooses to highlight a narrative even in jest (which it was not), and makes a great masala flick out of it, chooses to make this movie his comeback when all else had failed, you question, as a Pakistani SRK fan, what was the need?
Pathaan could have been a super relevant movie with slightly better execution, more believable action sequences and the project would have had universal appeal if they had left the Pakistan narrative out of it and instead, played a fictitious country. It has been done in other movies and this one could have toed the line too, But maybe, universal acceptability is not what the makers were after, maybe it was all about selling tickets in Indian cinemas and that, dear friends can only happen if you are scared to take risks. To suggest a new formula instead of using the one that has worked every time – creativity is a trade off when self image and money is at stake – the fight for survival in a cutthroat industry is hard when you are a 57 year old with a few not so box office hits behind you.
Shahrukh Khan has a sizeable fanbase across the border, and just like he feels he owes his Indian fans a break, he owes us too, but that perhaps, is not mutually inclusive. He has to let go of one, if he wants the other, unless of course, you go watch Pathaan for the masala and not for the messages, in which case, you and Shahrukh are both winners.
One day, just one day, and because we dream, we would like Shahrukh Khan to take a page out of Jemima Goldsmith’s book and say – There are No Terrorists In This Film!
Till then, we think we’ll watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to reach recovery mode. It’s critical to relive the good old days before we take in another new age Shahrukh Khan flick, and this one better be him dancing around trees, yeah, no hate there, but we prefer the older version!
On a side note: the Pathaan musical score is definitely catchy – a signature of all Shahrukh Khan ventures and we expected no less. Jhoome Jo Pathaan will definitely make it to Mehndi playlists in no time, if it hasn’t already. And Besharam Rang embraces the title with an all out hug – a beat you’ll catch onto instantly!