The upcoming movie Pathaan, starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, has been making news in India for a while now.
Given that Khan is among India’s largest and most popular stars, the interest is hardly surprising. The actor, who has millions of admirers both at home and abroad and is endearing and hilarious, is frequently referred to as Bollywood’s “most important cultural export” because of how well-liked he is outside of his films. He is affectionately referred to as King Khan or the King of Bollywood by his admirers.
And Pathaan is his return to the screen after a four-year absence.
The 57-year-old actor is returning to the big screen after experiencing a string of setbacks in both his personal and professional lives, including the arrest of his son Aryan Khan last year on fictitious drug possession charges, which were later dropped, and a number of poorly received movies.
The discrepancy has sparked interest in Khan and increased scrutiny of the movie, which also stars John Abraham and Deepika Padukone, two of India’s most well-known actors.
The movie has been the focus of nonstop social media buzz since the directors started releasing promotional videos for Pathaan’s songs in December.
The fan craze has peaked when the teaser debuted last week.
On YouTube, it has received over 49 million views. 3.9 million people have viewed the Hindi trailer on Khan’s Twitter, and an additional 500,000 people have watched the Telugu and Tamil versions.
According to reports, advance ticket sales have received “extraordinary reaction” in the US, UAE, Germany, and Australia.
Fans have compared the plot to a combination between James Bond and Mission Impossible movies, yet it is very predictable.
India is being targeted by a terrorist organization for “an attack they could not have envisaged.” While trying to stop them, the authorities are running out of time. The future of the nation is in jeopardy. So they sent their best man to the job.
Unmistakable voice sneers at us as Khan appears, “If you dare to celebrate in Pathaan’s house, then I will have to come to meet you – with fireworks.”
Khan, a slick spy with tousled hair and chiseled biceps and abs, kills opponents with ease while seeking to protect his country from Abraham’s wicked forces by jumping onto moving vehicles, scaling buildings, and seducing ladies. The pictures are accompanied with throbbing music.
Fans and critics alike have expressed excitement over the two and a half-minute trailer, raving over the scope of the undertaking. It was described as a “paisa vasool [worth for money] experience” by a fan, who also promised to see the movie as soon as it was released.
However, Pathaan has been dogged by problems from the beginning.
Khan has experienced his fair share of press and critic backlash in the past. But since he made remarks about increasing religious intolerance in India a few years ago, the attacks from Hindu right-wing organizations have became more targeted and organized.
According to author and film critic Saibal Chatterjee, “it has gained a clearly communal tinge, as they seek to anchor the actor’s image around his religious identity.”
He claims that up until a few years ago, Bollywood was viewed as a place where differences in politics and religion did not exist and where “entertainment was the only thing that mattered.” But, he continues, the business has recently grown more divisive.
“Khan is one of the few performers who still portrays the past that other groups want completely erased. They can’t bear him because of this.”
Hardline Hindu groups stirred up a controversy over one of the film’s songs after Padukone was spotted wearing a saffron-colored bikini in the song Besharam Rang, which translates from Hindi as “shameless color.” The hardline Hindu groups were already incensed by the film’s name Pathaan, a Muslim title.
Saffron is a color associated with Hinduism, thus they claimed Khan was mocking them despite Padukone’s frequent outfit changes throughout the song.
A petition has been filed in court accusing the cast of hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community, and the movie has been accused of promoting nudity and obscenity. There have also been calls to ban the movie unless the song is changed. Protesters have also destroyed posters and burned Khan’s effigies.
Abuse-related hashtags have become popular on social media and there have been persistent demands to boycott Pathaan.
But as Pathaan’s release date approaches, Khan and the directors have avoided the controversy, focusing instead on the movie’s advertising.
In a brief promotional film for the Fifa World Cup, actor Salman Khan was joined by footballer Wayne Rooney, who repeated after Khan in Hindi, “Apni kursi ki peti bandh lo, Mausam bigadne wala hai [Fasten your seatbelts, the weather is going to get tumultuous]”.
And earlier this week, Khan traveled to Dubai, where a sizable group of ecstatic fans gathered to watch the Pathaan movie trailer being projected onto the Burj Khalifa’s exterior.
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Much is at risk, including the actor’s reputation and the movie’s 2.5 billion rupee ($30 million; £25 million) budget. Some have questioned if the negative press will have an effect on the movie’s performance.
It’s a judgment that Chatterjee disputes.
Khan is a brand, possibly the biggest we’ve ever had in the nation and most definitely in Bollywood, the actor says.
Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh Khan author Shrayana Bhattacharya claims that the actor’s followers will “never reduce him to religion or political considerations.” They will watch the first episode of Pathaan because they missed him in previous episodes, she continues.
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However, some are unsure if Khan’s four-year absence from the big screen will be appropriate for the spy-thriller genre.
For a whole generation, Khan defined love, its language, its fickleness, and the concerns that go along with it as an actor who earned his reputation portraying a romantic hero. Additionally, the majority of his followers are women, who might not be interested in him as an action hero.
A few days ago, the actor claimed Pathaan “is a dream come true for me” because he had always wanted to be an action hero.
Despite having “some misgivings,” Chatterjee calls the film “a courageous notion.”
He notes that the actor has experimented with screenplays throughout the years, taking on a variety of parts, including those in My Name is Khan, Chak de India, and Love You Zindagi.
He asserts that Khan is undeniably “breaking the mold” with Pathaan.
“But he has the financial means to accomplish that at this stage of his career. He is experimenting and has no fear. He stands to gain nothing.”
Regardless of whether the wager is successful, he asserts that “you never miss a Shah Rukh Khan film.”