With more than 80 films to his credit, it's surprising how Shah Rukh Khan, one of the biggest Indian movie stars in history, has appeared in only a handful of action films. Because Khan, who first earned fame as a romantic hero in the 1990s, is so good at being an action star.
In Pathaan, his first film as lead in more than four years, Khan plays Indian spy agent Pathaan who's given the task of putting together his own team to stop a nefarious group of global freelance terrorists intent on creating havoc.
Led by a fetching John Abraham in a rare villainous role, the terrorists lead Pathaan's team on a chase around the world, from Delhi to Dubai and Moscow to Mallorca.
Along the way, they are joined by Pakistani agent Rubina Khan, played by Deepika Padukone, who seeks Pathaan's assistance to "fight a common enemy". But her shifting loyalties, and real-world distrust between India and Pakistan, add a new dimension to the coming doom Pathaan and his team are trying to stop.
Pathaan, however, falls in the same vein as director Siddharth Anand's other bombastic action films, Bang Bang! and War, which were huge money spinners — there are massive set pieces, and glamorous song and dance sequences, with little by way of logic.
But with Khan's irresistible charm on full display, one cannot help but overlook Pathaan's many flaws and just immerse yourself in the action. At 57 and with a newly-toned physique, he wastes no time in reminding us why he is one of the most beloved actors in the country right from the very first scene.
Padukone, who has starred in a few hits with Khan before, shares an easy chemistry with him, and gets to play a nicely layered character who also throws an equal number of punches. Veteran actress Dimple Kapadia, who plays Pathaan's mentor, gives a memorable performance while Abraham, while charmingly menacing, is a bit overshadowed by his co-stars.
Fans in the UAE will be happy to spot a few Dubai landmarks as one of the first action sequences features scenes shot around the city. A cameo appearance by a major Bollywood star is another highlight of the film. A joke between the guest star's character and Khan's Pathaan about which young agent could succeed them, had audiences in splits.
Pathaan comes at a time when Bollywood is struggling to attract audiences back to the cinema. Action hero Khan might just be able to do that, as long as fans are willing to suspend belief for a few hours and just go along for a fun ride.