The globe-trotting YRF spy thriller is Khan’s first real foray into commercial action cinema. The true triumph of Pathaan is that, unlike most other titles, its nostalgia extends beyond the physical – and that cheeky Salman Khan cameo – into the realms of the ideological.
The way Khan plays the role – with a sense of imperfection and humour – subliminally chips away at our perception of how patriotism must look on the big screen. There’s a bit of Darr and Baazigar in how Pathaan gets beaten up – and he gets pummeled a lot.
There’s a bit of Duplicate and Baadshah in Pathaan’s fawning over Rubai and their Moscow heist – which includes a boob joke that’s so jarring it’s funny. There’s a bit of Josh and Don to Pathaan’s exaggerated swag in Spain, when he catches Rubina’s attention by flaunting his abs throughout her song. There’s a bit of Swades, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Chak De! India in Pathaan’s Jai Hind moments
A country has renewed its romance with a superstar because his action transcends the performative dimensions of the screen. Pathaan doesn’t need to flaunt it, because Shah Rukh Khan has lived it