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Pathaan film review: Shah Rukh Khan’s crackerjack action hero debut at 57

It took a James Bond rehash for Bollywood to produce its sharpest action film. The SRK twist is that this desi Bond triumphantly flags a love-thy-neighbour credo.

January 25, 2023 / 03:30 PM IST
Shah Rukh Khan in 'Pathaan', which released in theatres on January 25, 2023. (Screen grab from trailer)

Shah Rukh Khan in 'Pathaan', which released in theatres on January 25, 2023. (Screen grab from trailer)

Siddharth Anand, director of Pathaan, channels Shah Rukh Khan’s electric on-screen charm like few directors have of late.

The hair is tousled, the eyes have lines around them that make-up can’t hide—in most scenes his face is buried under blood-splattered eyeballs and granular scars. Yet, the charm of a wise old, battered spy firmly in the mould of Bond, but with a sufficiently desi-sentimental heart and mongrel beginnings defying religion and geography—he is unapologetically a South Asian hero, not just an Indian one here—is instrumental in his crackerjack resurgence. Perhaps to seem safe enough to be admired for post-millennials and Gen-Z, he consumes green apples and fat-free yoghurt instead of alcohol and tobacco—the cheap neat whiskey is left for the woman.

Also read: In the season of SRK’s Pathaan, memories of Amitabh Bachchan and Nutan’s Saudagar

Those who have grown up on 1990s’ once-a-week Doordarshan TV serials will remember Fauji. It was one of Khan’s earliest lead roles, in which he played an Indian Army commando in training; it was set in a military school. If you take out the 2023 action staging—in a team of many action specialists, there is Craig Macrae who is one of the names in the Mad Max: Fury Road credit roll and Casey O’Neill who has worked with Tom Cruise, among other Hollywood actors—and the Hollywood-aspirant technology on glorious display, this could be the older and battle-scarred version of that old fauji who accidentally became a ladies’ man along the way.