The screenplay rushes at breakneck speed and gives us little time to question its logic
‘Pathaan’, directed by Siddharth Anand, is a loud nationalist film that targets Pakistan
An ex-RAW agent going rogue is the central idea of Yash Raj Films’ ‘spy verse’ (‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘War’). In this film, it is John Abraham’s character Jim who is against ‘Bharat Mata’. He is called to action by Pakistan, upset about the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status.
He plans an attack on India, and that is a plot idea squeezed out by Bollywood like a well-served tube of toothpaste. In comes Pathaan, a RAW agent who can do no wrong. In his mission to save the nation, he finds an ally in a mysterious ISI agent (Deepika Padukone).
This is the first Shah Rukh film in four years, and clearly, it fails to celebrate its star. In a ‘masala’ film, where the idea is to play to the gallery, it is important to have a razor-sharp focus on the hero. Here, we see no character traits that make him different from other action heroes.
The screenplay rushes at breakneck speed and gives us little time to question its logic. But for a film so predictable, you are frustrated at how seriously it takes itself.
‘Pathaan’ seems like a desperate attempt at making a spectacle. Despite fight scenes being shot in the air, on a cliff, and atop a moving train, nothing thrills, and what is to blame is the director’s lack of imagination. And the special effects are tacky.
Slick hand-to-hand combat between Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham notwithstanding, sloppy camera work and an underwhelming background score keep us from fully embracing the narrative.
‘Pathaan’ needed a towering antagonist, a force of nature who could unsettle us with his mere presence. John Abraham, with his sophisticated looks, is less a villain and more a model, selling his terrorist ideas as if they were grooming products stacked up in a supermarket.
Shah Rukh and Deepika, with their terrific chemistry, turn up the heat in a portion shot in Russia. In fact, Deepika is the film’s lone bright spot. She not only adds oomph to her character but also brings about the much-needed agility and style needed for a spy character. PS: The controversial saffron bikini in the sensuous number ‘Besharam rang’ remains intact.
Shah Rukh, with his trademark wit and energy, tries his best to entertain. The writing, bogged down by a lack of freshness, plays the patriotism card.
The characters frequently scream at us to be proud of our country. Ideally, the dialogues should have given voice to the inner turmoils of these officers.
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