After four long years, Shah Rukh Khan is back on the big screen with Siddharth Anand's Pathaan. And Anand does not shy away from giving Khan a hero's welcome. His hair is significantly longer, he has aged like fine wine and has become wiser, but the dimpled smile and twinkling eyes are a reminder that some things will never change.
Pathaan is a nod to Yash Raj Films' other espionage thrillers. The action sequences are also heavily inspired from Mission Impossible, Sriram Raghavan's Agent Vinod (his brother Sridhar Raghavan is one of the writers of Pathaan) and other James Bond movies.
With a plot so dispensable, what is it that has brought a nation together to celebrate this movie? The legacy of Shah Rukh Khan. Every character in the film has been designed to propel Shah Rukh's larger-than-life persona.
Jim (John Abraham), a former RAW agent gone rogue, is planning a ghastly attack on India that will result in cities getting wiped out. Only one person can prevent the attack- Pathaan (Shah Rukh Khan), a retired agent. Khan's former boss Nandini (Dimple Kapadia) summons him from vanvas (exile) as she is reminded that patriots never retire.
As the plot thickens, we are told through flashbacks (and more flashbacks) how Pathaan got his name, his early encounters with Jim, his first meeting with Rubina Mohsin (Deepika Padukone), glimpses of a romance and the fatal betrayal. Deepika and Shah Rukh share a great chemistry, even though the middling plot lets them down a tad bit.
Time and bruises have hardened Pathaan, but nothing can make him bow down.
The action sequences are true to the film's tag line- fasten your seat belts. Behind every successful clichéd Hindi hero and villain is a good fight, and I assure you, you can bet your money on Pathaan. Kudos to the writers, Sridhar and Abbas Tyrewaala, and director Siddharth Anand for giving us an out-and-out entertainer, peppered with the right dose of emotion, energy and glamour.
If Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff's showdown in War kept you on the edge of your seats, Shah Rukh and John's fistfights and blows are nothing short of whistle-worthy.
Quite a few of the dialogues might make you frown, you have to forget that physics even exists in some scenes, the hero must take down a whole army and emerge as good as new by popping a few painkillers and the plot derails at times, but the cast is here to remind you how sheer performances can shoulder an entire film.
What a comeback for Shah Rukh! His eyes glisten while recounting a heartwarming story from a mission in Afghanistan, he pulls off the rugged look with ease and the confident stunts are reason enough to crown him as an action hero alongside the evergreen romantic one. John delivers an engaging performance as Pathaan's nemesis, and full points for Deepika's style and agility. Unfortunately, she did have a very objectionable entry as compared to Shah Rukh and John, but her characters develops decently as the film progresses.
Ashutosh Rana and Dimple Kapadia, too, have their moments.
The cherry on the cake has to be Shah Rukh and Salman Khan's reunion. They shared the screen after decades and reminded us that "bachhon se na ho payega (watch the film to know what I mean!)".
When it's Siddharth Anand, you can expect a smattering of soft nationalism, and Pathaan isn't devoid of that. However, the makers ensure that jingoism isn't generously served on a platter as is the case with a lot of recent films. There's no attack on a particular community, the antagonist isn't stereotyped and painted all black, rather the outstretched arms of inclusivity aren't just for India but other neighbouring countries as well.
Pathaan exists to remind us that Shah Rukh Khan will be the ever charismatic Delhi boy who stole hearts right from his television debut Fauji.