Reasons to Watch ‘Pathaan’: The Molten Gold of SRK’s Magic Might Yet Hold All the Broken Pieces of India Together
- Shah Rukh Khan, the beloved of billions in a Hindu-majority nation, happens to be Muslim. This fact, which was irrelevant to us 25 years ago, has somehow become the centerpiece of the narrative in the last eight years.
My five reasons to watch “Pathaan.”
- The “paisa-vasool” Bollywood movie genre is back with a bang. “Pathaan” is a slick, high-octane, thrilling ride that will remind you of the best action sequences from Mission Impossible, the Bond movies, “Top Gun,” “Tomb Raider,” and more. Five (and more) movies for the price of one? Hell yes, sign me up. This is a movie that does not pretend to be anything it’s not, has the courage to laugh at itself, and delivers big on its promise to keep you entertained for 2 hrs and 30 minutes — no mean feat.
- John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Dimple Kapadia — the movie reinvents so many stars. The storyline fleshes out their characters and gives them brief yet credible backstories. Several actors get to have their moment beside the main protagonist and they dazzle! Smoldering hot looks — Check. Performances with depth — Double check.
- Dialogs that stick! Zingy one-liners delivered with King Khan’s incomparable charm and panache. Long after watching the movie, try saying them out loud in your living room and watch the drama of the big screen magically fill your living room. “Party agar Pathaan ke ghar mein rakhoge toh mehmaan navazi ke liye Pathaan toh aayega hi…” and many, many more.
- To truly appreciate the magnificent phenomenon that is Shahrukh Khan. The man who won hearts as “Fauji” over 30 years ago and continues to fill theaters against all odds. The maverick who experimented with negative roles before it was fashionable to do so. The actor who romanced and lip-synced with such sincerity that even the most cynical of us were forced to believe that love stood a chance. The dimpled, shy boy next door who is also a larger-than-life mega-star. The icon who has chosen to reinvent himself as an action star at 57 with jaw-dropping success. As “Pathaan,” he gives himself to us yet again, with complete and utter sincerity, filling the void in our souls we didn’t even realize existed.
- The most important reason of all — love and tolerance. SRK, the beloved of billions in a Hindu-majority nation, happens to be Muslim. This fact, which was irrelevant to us 25 years ago as we lined up to buy tickets to watch “DDLJ” for the zillionth time, has somehow become the centerpiece of the narrative in the last eight years. Nationalistic boycott gangs have decided that religious affiliation takes priority over talent and freedom of speech. Toxic hashtags, torn posters, burnt-down theaters, large-scale violence — these are the trials that any Bollywood movie that does not align with the nationalistic propaganda faces today. And this is why it is so significant to see the millions of Indians flocking to the big screen to watch “Pathaan.” Is it wishful thinking or are the Indian masses finally saying, “Enough!”? As the audience dances along to Jhoome Jo Pathaan after the end credits roll, being at the movies feels like being a part of something bigger than yourself. An act of celebration. An act of defiance. It feels like reclaiming the voice that was drowned out by protesters of the orange bikini (apparently a more serious issue than unemployment, poverty, and lack of infrastructure) and using it to cheer loudly for whatever the hell pleases your heart.
So go watch, and re-watch, “Pathaan.” Cheer loudly for SRK’s unbelievable abs. Whistle at Salman’s latte-wielding entry. Roll your eyes at the gravity-defying, unrealistic stunts. Marvel at Deepika’s litheness. Clap loudly when SRK declares “Ek soldier ye nahi puchta Desh ne uske liye kya kiya, Puchta hai wo desh ke liye kya kar sakta hai…” Suspend disbelief and expectations of perfection and come along for the joyride. Laugh, cry, sing and dance along. Remember the way we once were — before prejudice became our default state. Clap, holler, jeer or criticize — feel fully free! For what is freedom but the ability to choose?
As the Indian audience chooses to disregard the boycotts, bans, and religious affiliations and fills the theaters to break all box office collection records, joy appears to be winning over idolatry, intolerance, and hatred, however briefly. The molten gold of SRK’s magic might yet hold all the broken pieces of our nation together. Hope springs eternal. Jai Hind!
Preity Bhagia was born and raised in Delhi, worked in Dubai and has now made a home in Houston, where she lives with her husband and two children. She earned a degree in literature at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. She is an entrepreneur by day and a writer by night. Her writing has appeared in The Pinch, Houston Chronicle, Huffington Post, and Medium.com. She enjoys travel, performing arts, her children’s jokes and lazy, rainy Sundays.