Pathaan’s very own ‘Bharat Jodo’ moment

ByShuchi Bansal
Feb 06, 2023 10:56 AM IST

You may love the film or hate it but you cannot ignore the box office collection for Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan which stood at ₹332 crore for India on Wednesday, as per trade website Box Office India

You may love the film or hate it but you cannot ignore the box office collection for Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan which stood at 332 crore for India on Wednesday, as per trade website Box Office India. Add the overseas collections and the film’s total is more than 600 crore which could make it the highest worldwide grosser of all time by the second weekend.

Pathaan’s very own Bharat jodo moment PREMIUM
Pathaan’s very own Bharat jodo moment

A lot has been said about the surprising commercial success of the film which has emerged as the knight in shining armour for the embattled Hindi film industry, and revived the fortunes of small-town, single-screen cinemas, many of which were on the brink of closure after the pandemic. Nearly 1500-2,000 of the 6,000 plus single-screen theatres in the country shut down in the last three years – a consequence of the two lockdowns followed by lack of enticing movies.

The number of Bollywood films that have worked in the last two years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Most of the Indian box office revenue was cornered by dubbed version of southern language films such as Pushpa, RRR, KGF Chapter 2 and Kantara.

Theatres’ long wait for a super-hit Hindi film ended with Pathaan being touted as the fourth film in the spy universe being created by producers Yash Raj Films (YRF). It’s easy to see why Pathaan has worked. “For starters, Pathaan is the idea of a big screen entertainer in its truest sense. It is the kind of film that people are looking forward to post-pandemic, one that offers an experience enjoyed on the big screen,” says Shailesh Kapoor, founder of media research and consulting firm Ormax that offers analytics tools and content testing services to TV channels, production houses and studios.

With Pathaan, YRF seems to have crystallized the idea of its spy universe. The film not only mentions Hrithik Roshan’s character in War, it has dialogues between SRK and Salman Khan hinting at the former’s appearance in the Tiger franchise, says Kapoor. “Mainstream Bollywood films are following the Hollywood franchise and universe model. Rohit Shetty has attempted it with his cop universe but YRF is building more of a Marvel-like universe and branding it,” Kapoor says.

With the appeal and easy access of OTT content, creating a film for the masses for the big screen is no joke. Such entertainers have to be replete with action scenes, special effects and other elements to justify the sky-high price of the ticket. Such a film has to entertain and draw not just multiplex viewers in big cities but also audiences to single screens in the smallest of towns, says Kapoor.

Viral video clips of viewers dancing and cheering inside theatres proves that Pathaan is a crowd pleaser. It’s neither too layered to elude certain audiences nor is it exceedingly ‘mass’ to be rejected by the urban, cosmopolitan viewers.

Bollywood producer Anku Pande says that content with such mass appeal connects with people though elite urban audiences tend to think only their tastes define good content. Pande, who is making Fighter with Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, says the credit for Pathaan’s success goes to the filmmakers for their conviction of using SRK in the role of an action hero and the treatment of the film. Kapoor agrees with her. Though SRK has in the past been cast in action films like Don and Ra.One, Pathaan best utilizes his swag and stardom as an action hero, he says.

Film critics and political commentators are also viewing the success of the film through a political lens, given the boycott calls its trailer provoked earlier. The country is celebrating the nationalism of a Muslim protagonist, they say, even though Pathaan’s religion in the film is not defined.

The truth is, the film has stayed away from religion and political discourse and still managed to convey that nation is more important than politics and religion. “This idea is not hammered down but derived,” Kapoor says. Others feel the Bharat Jodo Yatra may have reminded people that we are going off the plot and that we should not get sucked into the politics of the boycott gang.

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