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Shah Rukh Khan's Pathaan a hit with fans and critics

Published on 2023-06-04 16:05:34 source:NBC News

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's Pathaan has opened to huge fanfare and enthusiastic reviews in India.

The much-awaited spy thriller marks Khan's grand return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus.

Analysts say the film, which released on Wednesday, is already on track to become the first big hit of 2023.

Some have critiqued the film's plot - calling it over the top and silly - but others said that Khan had managed to revive his magic on the silver screen.

"Bollywood is back. Shah Rukh Khan is back," film reviewer Shubhra Gupta wrote in her review for The Indian Express.

Pathaan also stars Deepika Padukone and John Abraham in lead roles.

The film tells the exhilarating tale of Pathaan, a suave Indian spy played by Khan, who is on a mission to stop a group of terrorists from attacking India. Its trailer, which dropped on January 10, has been watched more than 50 million times on YouTube.

The film released in nearly 8,000 screens worldwide, the biggest opening for a Bollywood film, according to analyst Taran Adarsh.

Exhibitors said they had to add new shows to their schedules to meet the demand. And on Wednesday, Khan tweeted that 25 single screen theatres had re-opened in northern Indian to screen the film, after they were shut down during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Pathaan also saw a record number of advance bookings. Ticketing platform BookMyShow told news agency PTI that the audience response had been "phenomenal" with over one million tickets booked by Monday itself.

The film has mostly received glowing reviews so far.

Ms Gupta said it was a dazzling affair of "non-stop action, leavened by glamorous leads, topped by the guy who can save the world, a high-octane set piece and an emo line at a time".

Film critic Deepanjana Pal, who writes for the website FilmCompanion, called Pathaan "a hero for today's India" who brings familiar gestures to the role but in new and different ways.

"The romantic hero is gone, replaced by an older, scruffier man who is determined to fulfil the responsibilities placed up him by his circumstances," she wrote.

Some, however, felt that parts of the film were over-the-top and unrealistic.

Uday Bhatia, while reviewing the film for Mint Lounge newspaper, said it was a "maximalist fun, spy actioner that piles spectacle on silly spectacle".

Film critic Nandini Ramnath said there were moments when "the narrative slumps, when the stunts feel too familiar or derivative, when the thrills look like they are in danger of running out".

"But whenever Pathaan picks up the action again, and adds Abbas Tyrewala's whistle-worthy lines to its hero's arsenal, the film slides back into gear," she wrote in Scroll.

Meanwhile, videos from cinema halls showed fans dancing and jumping in joy as Khan made an appearance on screen.

But right from the start, the film has been mired in controversies - and on Wednesday, protests broke out in some states against its screening.

In the southern state of Karnataka, a complaint was registered against 30 people for vandalising public property and attempting to halt a screening of the film in Belagavi district.

In Haryana state, members of a right-wing group were charged for tearing posters of the film at a mall.

Before its release, the film's name Pathaan - a Muslim title - had riled up hard-line Hindu groups. Its song Besharam Rang, which translates from Hindi to shameless colour, too had raked up a controversy for showing Padukone in a saffron-coloured bikini. Right-wing groups accused Khan of insulting Hindus, as saffron is a colour associated with their religion.

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