The largest movie is Pathaan of 2023 and the most recent Bollywood smash from Shah Rukh Khan is explained by an authority in Indian cinema.
One of the biggest movie stars in the world is currently in one of his career’s most precarious situations. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan hasn’t produced a film in nearly five years. He is two most recent releases didn’t engage audiences, he’s at war with India’s ruling government. SRK business has been disrupted by the pandemic, right-wing activist boycotts, and resentment over nepotism. The 30-year-old actor’s most recent movie, which came out on January 25, maybe the biggest test of his star power.
The significance of Khan’s film Pathaan, however, goes much beyond the actor’s performance. Khan, a Muslim from a middle-class family, has resisted the growing Hindu nationalism that has been pervasive in Bollywood for the past few years. Due to the charismatic star’s unique appeal in India and many other countries, the right-wing Hindutva administration, which has been in power since 2014, has specifically targeted him.
Pathaan vs Avatar: The Way of Water:
Pathaan, a stylish, high-budget action movie, overtook Avatar: The Way of Water, which had held the top rank for weeks when it was released on the eve of India’s Republic Day. Few expected the movie to be as successful as it was, but many people are happy to have the beloved star back in the spotlight. All kinds of records have been broken by the movie. According to Deadline, it is one of the highest-grossing Hindi movies of all time and the first Bollywood film to reach $100 million in box office revenue without having been seen in China. Reaching these kinds of milestones is something very different from having impressive box office results.
Bollywood is dealing with a variety of problems, but one thing is clear: Hindi cinema’s freedom of expression, influence, and even earnings has been harmed by the Indian government’s desire to promote Hindu nationalism above all else. It appeared that their efforts might also fail to save India’s most recognizable icon. It didn’t, though. I chatted with Rahul Desai, a film critic for the Indian entertainment news website Film Companion, to discuss the relevance of this movie as well as the current and future of Bollywood. He explained to me why Pathaan’s success is owed to much more than the movie’s content and what happens after a decade of bitter Hindu nationalism in India.
Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, was virtually shut down during the pandemic, much like Hollywood. Before the debut of Pathaan, how was the business climate?
The Hindi film industry was already having trouble before the outbreak. After Sushant Singh Rajput, a well-known actor who was an outsider committed suicide, there was a significant nepotism issue. There was a myth that Hindi films, which are made in northern India, couldn’t compete with big blockbusters from the South. To put it frankly, the general public had the impression that Bollywood was the bad guy in Indian movies. Covid didn’t help matters at all.
Since there haven’t been enough movies to choose from, I’ll be honest and say that I find it difficult to create annual greatest movie lists. So, while the disfavor wasn’t entirely unjustified, Bollywood movies have been struggling as a result of the recent extremely toxic environment. Even in Mumbai, the hub of the Hindi film business, Telugu blockbusters like RRR and the Marvel movies that debut in India perform better than Hindi movies.
India has undergone a significant political transition. Despite having a majority of Hindus, the nation was built on secular ideals. However, since 2014, the right-wing administration has supported Hindu fundamentalism. Bollywood appears to be more heavily influenced by the government than ever.
Bollywood and the government had had a relationship in the past, but it ended when speech was allowed. Despite the fact that many cinema stars had their own political views, they nonetheless made movies that were expressive, bold, and in many respects secular. This nation has long been plagued by prejudice against other races and religions. It’s only that, in contrast to earlier establishments, this one has weaponized that. Why? They rapidly understood that this is the best way to spread their beliefs. Bollywood has the most impact on the general public.
As a result, the government has forced many of the influential figures in the sector into some sort of surrender. When one of their peers is being harassed or when one of their own is being mistreated, stars won’t speak out. Given that their jobs and livelihoods are on the line, I can’t hold it against them. Many of the celebs are in a really vulnerable situation.
This has an impact on the types of movies that are produced. The stories that are told and the performers that are supported are under the control of the government, especially. If those actors publicly profess their Hinduism. As opposed to, say, the films from the past that represented secular ideology and gentle patriotism, saying. We are proud of the country we are in, but it doesn’t have to cross the line, you see a rise in patriotic films that pretend to be patriotic while clearly preaching a very different kind of nationalism. Many boundaries are being breached right now.
This leads us to the subject at hand: Over the past few years, Pathaan has been one of Bollywood’s most eagerly awaited movies. There are several causes, but Shah Rukh Khan, sometimes known as SRK, is one of the most important. Give us some background about him.
Since the early 1990s, Khan has been the biggest superstar of the modern period in Hindi cinema. He has long been the name that most people link to India. The only name that will be recognized in even the most remote foreign nation is Shah Rukh Khan. They’ll mention one of his 1990s films or hum one of his well-known tunes. He has served as an introduction for Indian tourists all over the world. That icon has been him for thirty years.
Of course, Bollywood has a huge number of stars! There are actually two additional Khans: Salman and Aamir. These three Muslim actors, together with SRK, dominated the 1990s and 2000s and are still in demand now. However, SRK stands above other Indian celebrities because he is from a middle-class household and is the only non-nepo baby in the group. He also preaches about secularism and had a father who fought for India’s independence.
Khan has the ideal underdog tale. He is the most well-known outsider in the business, and it is usually his tale that triumphs in the movies. People go to celebrate his tale rather than just watch him. No matter how talented you were in other areas, he serves as an example of what can be done if you just pack your bags, leave everything behind, and head to Mumbai. People still travel to Mumbai now using him as their benchmark. He and the three Khans are the embodiment of an intrinsically secular conception of India.
For the past three decades, the three Khans have largely ruled. However, SRK has struggled over the past several years as he hit his late 40s and is now in his late 50s. His most recent movies failed for a variety of reasons, most notably because they were subpar. They were awful. Because he was at that uncomfortable age where he didn’t know whether to be Shah Rukh Khan, an actor or a character actor, he was also not very good at them.
SRK is a massive celebrity in India, yet after three decades, he is still navigating a shifting business. Tom Cruise and many others have had similar experiences, so that element of his tale is rather usual. Khan is distinct in that he has a relationship with the current administration in India.
Funny enough, a large portion of my generation, which was raised in the 1990s, didn’t view the Khans as Muslim or Hindu celebrities; rather, we just saw them as Bollywood icons, with the surname “Khan” being regarded as the most fashionable. Years later, when I was watching movies in Mumbai and concentrating on the legend of Shah Rukh Khan. I began to feel an increasing connection to the way that the current regime was making use of the religious story. The ultimate representation of secularism had to be destroyed if the new Hindu nationalist ruling party was to truly destroy it. Khan has been indirectly targeted throughout the past four or five years, and this is not a coincidence.
After I started working as a professional film reviewer, I didn’t really enjoy engaging in this debate or praising him as “the India we need, and not the India we have.” However, it has been clear in the past year or so that there is no avoiding that dialogue.
As you mention, a few events are taking place prior to Pathaan: Shah Rukh Khan’s popularity is being put to the test, and Bollywood is in dire need of a smash. Then comes the question of whether or not a performer at odds with the government can be successful. I don’t want to overstate this.
To be completely honest, I didn’t anticipate it. In reality, I was arranging for the worst. Given the events that have occurred in this nation over the past ten years. I predicted that we would see SRK pleading with viewers to see the movie, which is not a good look for anyone. The movie’s success shocked me to my very core.
I won’t call the patriotism displayed in Pathaan bold or in any way rebellious. However, it’s somewhat subversive because SRK is portraying a character named Pathaan. This is the name of the Pashto-speaking, predominately Muslim community in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He claims to feel a connection to an Afghan village, not that he is an Indian Muslim. That’s not related in any way to India. You’re not exactly addressing Hindu nationalism head-on or getting to its core. Being Shah Rukh Khan, what you are doing is starring in the movie Pathaan and releasing it in the climate we are in. Considering the difficulties faced by Bollywood and the state of the country.
More information regarding Pathaan the character and the movie’s title would be helpful.
The title’s meaning is that being a patriot is no longer a given for Hindus. It is not connected to any specific faith. Many individuals seem to be upset that SRK’s character doesn’t identify as an Indian Muslim. He was given the name Pathaan by a family. He met in Afghanistan, therefore we don’t know what his original name is. However, it is not relevant where you are from or what type of Muslim you are. It’s the idea that one particular group shouldn’t control your love of your country. Your love of movies, your love of people, or your love of art in general.
That’s what the movie cleverly accomplishes. They don’t disparage Hinduism the way that many Hindu nationalist movies have been disparaging Islam for the past ten years. Instead, it advances a completely different conception of Islam. Instead of demeaning one community to elevate another, that is the more respectable and humane way to make a point.