January 26, 2023
“Pathaan, tu?” a man asks, incredulous, only for the bloodied person in front of him, his long hair covering his eyes and mouth, to flip his hair back, rays of light perfectly hitting his face. The theater erupts into applause and screams of delight. Shah Rukh Khan — superstar, romantic hero, and now action maven — has arrived. And you can’t ignore him.
Director Siddharth Anand — who himself has taken a turn from directing romances such as Salaam Namaste and Bachna Ae Haseeno to action flicks such as Bang Bang! and War — remolds not only Khan, but also Deepika Padukone and John Abraham in Yash Raj Films’ spy universe. The action thriller, made on a whopping budget of ₹2.5 billion (roughly $30.7 million), is one of the biggest films Anand and long-running movie studio Yash Raj Films have ever made.
Expectations are, admittedly, high. This is also King Khan’s first film as the lead in over four years, and his most jacked, action-y avatar yet. Though he’s delivered beautifully grey, violent characters earlier in his career and more recently in Raees (2017), most fans associate Khan with his signature opening-his-arms-to-embrace-you look more than they do with fight sequences. With Pathaan, they’ll get a Mission Impossible-style, high-octane ride with plenty of humor and cute one-liners galore — and, surprisingly, a plot that makes somewhat sense. It’s entertaining as hell. But if you’re looking for something deeper, it’s best to leave those expectations at home.