A ‘Pathaan’ Review Like None Other
N.B: All the Indian characters in this film salute before they die
‘Pathaan’ brings out the Zen in you. A Vipassana course is unnecessary. This is more challenging. Five seconds into the film and you will get the urge to fold your legs into Padmasana, shut your eyes and figuratively mute the noise. Unless, of course, you haven’t ever travelled beyond Bhayandar and instead of spending money on air travel, you’d rather make do with exotic locales on celluloid. It’s like a travelling McDonalds eatery, hailing you to the best locations in the world. Location, location, location…
There is a mention of Article 370 at the beginning and end of the film. In between, lies a multiverse that can thrust you like a comet into Buddhism.
Nandini, head of Joint Operations, R.A.W (Dimple Kapadia) narrates the story to a subordinate of the hero, a R.A.W agent, Pathaan (Shahrukh Khan without his shock treatment moves), creating a Phantom of sorts.
“Phantom strikes faster than the eye can see, Old Jungle Saying”; a build up for a grand entry. Grand entries, most often reveal the back of the character first, like we don’t know who it’s going to be. Seriously? And then the hair comes off the face in slow motion.
Actually, Pathaan gets beaten up and bloody before he beats the others, in slow motion.
The supporting cast also mention the anti-hero, Jim (John Abraham), an Ex R.A.W agent like the students at Hogwarts gossip about ‘You Know Who’. Jim wants to take revenge on India because R.A.W didn’t pay the ransom to African terrorists for his release. If I remember correctly, he is static in the first shot and so it didn’t warrant slow motion.
Then there is Rubina (Deepika Padukone), an ISI agent, who also enters the screen in slow motion, bare body first.
So there’s a good R.A.W, a bad Ex R.A.W and a shady I.S.I. Bad Ex R.A.W has formed an ex-team with ex spies from all over the world (excluding MI6, Mossad, CIA and KGB) in order to destroy India of Article 370 fame. He plans to do this by spreading a deadly Smallpox Virus that is safely bottled in a round metal container that looks like a Star Wars reject.
It’s difficult to concentrate and follow the narrative but I am trying to do my best here. There’s something about finding Raktabeej.
War is a constant throughout the film. It's bigger than Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Palestine and Trump put together. And most of it is in gravity- defying slow motion or in high speed edits. Most often, it’s difficult to figure out who hit whom and where. It’s more difficult than figuring out the narrative.
They (I’m always confused about who the ‘they’ are) fight on the mountains, in the desert, in the snow, in European and African streets, swimming pools, frozen lakes, helicopters, cars, buses and also in the air (solo dog fights in personal flying machines with Batman wings). Pathaan also does a Spiderman swing from one aircraft to another, mid-flight (hehe). Jim ties down a helicopter to the top of a bus with his bare hands. I’m quite sure he did something like that. Yes. There’s no India of Article 370 here.
What kind of a name is Pathaan? We understand Bhai, but Pathaan? Well, while I was struggling to hang onto the non-linear narrative like Rubina hanging onto an aircraft in mid-air, the Christening of Pathaan is revealed by the screenplay writer in a backstory. It's a whole new film within a film. I shouldn’t have asked. Please don’t ask. Please.
Bhai enters this universe when you think Pathaan is going to die. I mean, you know that Pathaans never die but, you know, like it’s an impossible situation, like ten men around you with knives and guns in a train compartment, and all are stupid enough to not kill you because they hear a sound on the roof. Someone is walking on the roof of a moving train. Let’s not kill this guy who has been beating us to the ground in slow motion for the last ten minutes.
Bhai’s body weighs more than Pathaan’s.
The only admirable aspect to this entire endeavour is the attempt to crack the Bond and Marvel genre. Now, that's a lot to take on. But even in the so-called larger than life, death defying antics of the Bond films, there lies a plinth of logic beneath the actions that defy gravity. Here, there is none. Zero. Shunya. Anda. Nil. Zilch.
The film ends up being an unintentional comedy that does not even match up to the Hera Pheris made for the masses.
So there is nothing to say here. Zero. Zilch. Anda…
If we were to talk of Shahrukh Khan’s six packs, there are half a dozen similar bodies that can step out of Talwalkars and Gold Gym, including John Abraham.
If we were to talk of Deepika’s Bath and Body Works, there are dozens on Facebook and Instagram who boast of the same. Anyway, you are supposed to not look at all this, because you should be in Zen mode.
Dimple Kapadia, tch, tch… One intrinsically beautiful actor in the film is made to hide behind an ugly pair of glasses. If that wasn't enough, she is given smallpox and a messed up face at the end by the screenplay writer and the director; a prime example of desecrating Art.
The dialogue is just that- dialogue. It has nothing to do with human emotions or behaviour. It’s about jingoism. ‘If you have drunk your mother’s milk’ of the past is replaced by, “What can you do for your country? Jaihind” etc.. The glib wisecracks fall flatter onto the ground than the film itself- and all the jingoism equals zero, nil, anda, zilch.
And here’s the thing... People wonder why the extroverted ‘in your face’ films of the South garner more respect. It’s probably because they set out to tell a story first. The intentions are pure, however questionable their genre may be to many.
This is probably the lowest point in filmmaking for YRF/YRF SPY; lower than Tashan (2008). We shall be positive and wait for a resurrection. Jaihind.
Om Shanti… Shanti…
Director: Siddharth Anand
Screenplay: Shridhar Raghavan and Abbas Tyrewala
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Dimple Kapadia and Bhai
Songs: Vishal- Shekhar
Rating : *