“Because I am Pathaan” is not the smartest justification for all the things one may choose to do in their life, but the creators of Pathaan seem to think so.
Before we begin, I am not ignorant of the intended message behind this film- secularity. Our country is in dire need of it, and SRK and Deepika Padukone have been victims of the lack of it. In this regard, the film attempts to be a heartwarming gesture…until it’s not.
If you have attempted- at the naive age of 13, or even 20, to arrive at a decent route to achieve the coveted idea of World Peace, perhaps you may have thought up a film like Pathaan.
To put it simply in the Indian context, perhaps you may have thought Kashmir a play toy that can easily switch between India and Pakistan until one country gets the upper hand.
Such thinking does more danger than good- because you manage to dehumanise the people living there. This is why the last bits of the film are especially painful to watch, when ‘Jim’ our antagonist (John Abraham) thinks it is very easy to ask for Kashmir to be handed over to Pakistan in 24 hours.
On the surface, these comments are great to keep your sense of patriotism flowing- especially in the theatre, but at its core, it reaffirms what everyone needs to know but chooses to ignore- We know nothing about the land, people or politics of Kashmir, despite constantly claiming to want it.
Pathaan also demonstrates haste. It was like this one film was the last film to do everything we want. So from India-Pakistan conflicts to Pandemic fears, to a subtle tribute to the Avengers, Pathaan builds weak links, playing monkey bars into each topic with a side of bad jokes.
In the end, each issue is either left incomplete or addressed unsuccessfully. For example, when our antagonist Jim attempts to unleash a new Pandemic into the world by ‘creating’ a virus in the lab- which felt like a great disservice to all the science going into screaming that COVID-19 Pandemic was not manufactured in a lab by some country. Or even when Jim gives the Indian government ’24 hours’ for Kashmir and then they never bring it up again, or the abrogation of Article 370- another serious issue mentioned at the beginning and the end of the film, but not being addressed the way it deserved to be.
But you may argue that this was not the film’s genre or job. And I will say, “Then? Were they running some competition to give special mention to all the things that affected our country last year and leave?”
The last visible scab I want to pick is what we began with- SRK’s explanation for everything being simply that he is a Pathaan. Over the past few days, while creating the excitement to watch this movie, I have engaged in conversations with several Pakistani (Pathaan) taxi drivers, instructors, and friends about whether they will watch it. They say yes, beaming with pride. They say this movie glorifies their culture, that SRK is actually a Pathaan, and that they are happy to have him recognise this origin in trying times.
When will we give up on glowing from our lineages? In this way, the movie also exposes the disappointing shadow of caste pride that prevails among the Muslim community. In doing this, we are once again doing a great disservice to the Pasmanda Muslims.
Side note, I am not sure if travelling to a new country every week (Planning robbery in Spain, executing robbery in Russia, and finally watching plan crescendo in Afghanistan) and doing government work should be considered “culture”- so technically, the name of the film becomes misleading.
If one can accept these flaws in logic, one can happily watch this film- especially before the interval- for the lovely chemistry combusting between Rubai (Deepika Padukone) and Pathaan (SRK). Rubai is a boss woman who owns her sexuality throughout, well aware that she looks “bomb” and unapologetically using it. She is never sidelined as the pretty heroine- although there are some unnecessary fleeting moments where her character steps down to feed the limelight to our Pathaan.
To be fair, shirtless Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham, plus a very stunning Deepika Padukone is a 3-hour visual treat I would not want anyone to miss, and perhaps this was the creator’s game plan too, hence the lack of focus on the story line. Judging from the box office numbers, they were not wrong.