Pathaan (2023) Movie Review – Throbbing SRK-starrer is high on masala, short on ideas and substance

Throbbing SRK-starrer is high on masala, short on ideas and substance

Before Pathaan, Shah Rukh Khan was absent from the big silver screen for nearly four years. He had a few compensatory cameos here and there, but we all missed seeing the superstar in a central, larger-than-life role like he assumes in Pathaan.

The thing with big-budget Bollywood films is that they are tailor-made for the traditional Hindi cinema consumer. When one says traditional, it means that for those viewers, the quality of storytelling or logistical probabilities dos not take precedence. They root all their expectations in the star, whose image sells the tickets; to see him beat up baddies, salvage all impossible situations, and look damn good doing it all. Well, Shah Rukh Khan definitely does all of that superbly. But unfortunately, that is not enough.

A recent theme in Hindi cinema that has caught on with the masses has been patriotism and the titillating representation of intelligence agencies. Every other story involves either an agent gone rogue and conniving against the country, or an exceptional agent willing to do anything to save it. The experience of watching these films and web series has reached a saturation point. And hence, one can easily relate to the frustrations when Shah Rukh’s Pathaan does the same. Pathaan squarely falls in the latter category of intelligence agents and comes up against a formidable foe, Jim (John Abraham), who falls in the former.

They are cut from the same cloth, yet engage in a fierce battle of ideals. But it is not just about that. Pathaan’s mission morphs from recovering a secret Russian formulation before the ISI or Jim reaches it, to figuring out how to stop the spread of an incurable, fatal disease in India’s capital. The agent goes across the European continent chasing his enemy. With time being of the essence, Pathaan cannot be faulted for its pace. The change in scenes and emotions is quick and fairly durable, albeit with the caveat of Bollywood masala.

Bollywood masala is an acquired taste. Decades of cinema have catered to a large audience who enjoy this brand of films. And in line with the substance of this brand, there is nothing nuanced, subtle, or delicate about Pathaan. Everything is larger than life and done to aggrandize its central protagonist.

All the frailties for Pathaan come in the form of established Bollywood paradigms. But one cannot blame the film for embracing them, for that is its point entirely. Pathaan is supposed to mark Shah Rukh’s blockbuster comeback as the quintessential action hero every big superstar craves to play in front of packed theatres and salivating viewers.

And indeed, the euphoria of seeing Shah Rukh back on the silver screen in the action hero avatar is undeniable. There is an aura that the superstar carries with him that is timeless. His chiselled body, brawny muscles, and unkempt hair are all uncharacteristic of the disarming dimples and boyish charms we associated him with. Shah Rukh is beefed up and rugged, something we have not seen before.  But even then, watching him is reminiscent of the times we first fell in love with him. All his scenes with Abraham’s Jim remind one of Mai Hu Na, his first big action flick.

Having said all that, Pathaan is not for everyone. And only if you enjoy such loud-mouthed Bollywood fanaticism. These films are only meant to be watched on the big screen with hooting, whistles, and the occasional “bharat mata ki jai” chants keeping you in the bubble. Once you are out of the theatre, Pathaan is as forgettable as the next big Bollywood action film. There is nothing enduring about it. Pathaan will not give you any food for thought or confront you with complex emotional dynamism. It is hardly reflective of everyday life. In fact, the film has nothing to do with real life at all.

It exists and vanishes in its own surreal cinematic universe; the celebrated space where the hero can do no wrong and there is no limit to what he can do right. Pathaan lacks depth, brevity, subtlety, and intelligence which makes for good cinema. Yet, it will be this year’s biggest hit and remains a treat to watch for all Shah Rukh Khan fans, who are many, including yours truly.


Read More: Pathaan Ending Explained

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 5.5/10

1 thought on “Pathaan (2023) Movie Review – Throbbing SRK-starrer is high on masala, short on ideas and substance”

  1. Hi, Arnav
    Pathaan review is well written and I do agree that it is not a movie for everyone. If you are a diehard shahrukh fan you will definately enjoy it. It lacks depth and you cannot connect as to what is really happening in the movie.

Leave a comment