A superhero-level spy in one in all the largest film franchises on this planet, with a superstar lead actor fighting on top of trains, jumping out of planes and saving the world.
You would be excused for pondering that was an outline of Mission: Unattainable. But as a substitute, explained film critic Emaan Khan, Tom Cruise is not a match to this star.
“He’s greater,” film critic Emaan Khan said of Shah Rukh Khan, star of the brand new Bollywood hit Pathaan. “Tom Cruise cannot do these dances.”
And whether or not you’ve got heard of it, Pathaan‘s impact is undeniable. The fourth instalment within the YRF Spy Universe film franchise follows Pathaan, an exiled counterintelligence agent tasked with stopping a terrorist from releasing a biological weapon in India. And with arguably India’s biggest actor on the helm, back after a 4 12 months break, the film is breaking records left and right.
After it released in January, the day before India’s Republic day, it quickly became the largest movie on this planet — pulling down even James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. In keeping with Deadline, it was the primary movie to top $100M US On the box office with no release in China, and saw the largest opening weekend for a Bollywood film ever in North America and quite a lot of other worldwide regions.
WATCH | Pathaan trailer:
But even while it’s riding high now, Pathaan — and even Bollywood’s — future was on no account certain over the past few years. After years of success each at home and abroad, Bollywood producers saw flop after flop throughout the pandemic, collectively losing roughly $100 million US during just the primary half of 2022 based on the BBC.
Combined with a push from India’s government to limit the pluralistic and diverse content of its movies — which have been probably the most attractive elements of the industry — Bollywood seemed to be on its way out. And on top of that, once reliable Khan’s star appeared to be fading, because the failure of quite a lot of his newer movies gave rise to concern: “The chitter-chatter began around ‘Is he done?'” Emaan Khan said.
But Pathaan‘s surprising success is beginning to alter that dour opinion, pitting Bollywood as once more probably the most essential film industries on this planet — with considerable help right here in Canada.
Outside of its worldwide success, Pathaan got a few of it’s biggest bumps right here. In keeping with a press release from Cineplex, of the ten theatres with the best Pathaan attendance in North America, nine were in Canada.
“Now we have so many individuals coming from India and from southeast countries and it does make sense,” explained Emaan Khan. “But having said that, no person expected it to be this massive.”
That have was doubly surprising for a way Pathaan was marketed — or somewhat, not marketed — and the concerted effort to maintain it from gaining an audience in any respect.
First, Pathaan had virtually no media interaction before its release, keeping its stars from giving interviews as will likely be typical for all Bollywood productions. The plan was to construct suspense and interest solely from releasing music videos tied to the film itself, and play on fan base desire for a latest Khan film — a dangerous strategy that might have led to few knowing or caring that the movie existed.
However the larger risk to the film was it joining a lengthening list of movies targeted by right wing Hindu groups upset over content.
Pathaan’s ‘shameless color’
In Pathaan‘s case, the ire was mostly directed against a scene through which Khan’s co-star Deepika Padukone appears in a bikini throughout the song Besharam Rang — which translates to “shameless color.”
As that bikini was orange, some groups — including India’s nationalistic ruling party Bharatiya Janata — took issue, saying it was saffron: a color associated each with Hinduism and that party particularly. BJP and others subsequently called for a boycott, while activists in India tore down and burned promotional posters — and BJP home minister Madhya Pradesh threatened to ban the film entirely.
But as a substitute of killing Pathaan, its success each domestically and internationally within the face of those efforts not only proved that Bollywood can survive, it proved Bollywood can grow.
“The film has been doing just as well outside India because it has been doing in India,” said Sunera Thobani, a professor of South Asian cinema on the University of British Columbia. “So fan base is an element, but I feel that, clearly, something is changing In the general public mood.”
There are other changes that Pathaan signals as well. Though its plot is fairly much like past Bollywood movies in its championing — and failure to challenge — Indian patriotism, Khan’s character himself has a special significance.
In recent times, subtle and overt Islamophobia in India has been on the rise — with anti-Muslim hate speech moving into the mainstream as attempts are made to transition India from a secular republic right into a Hindu state.
Thobani explained that while Khan is himself Muslim, his character has done much for representation.
Pathan, she explained, is a term connected to each Afghanistan and communities on Pakistan’s North-West Frontier. Due to that, it is usually connected with the Muslim identity — suggesting Khan’s character himself is Muslim as well.
That tangential relationship was enough for fellow actor Kangana Ranaut to say the film’s name must be modified altogether. But Thobani said the inclusion of a probable Muslim hero in a Bollywood film is an indication of positive change.
“Muslim men are represented generally as nefarious characters — as either engaged in terrorist plots or abusive men who beat up their wives or very strictly controlling of their daughters,” she said of most Bollywood movies.
“On this film you see a Muslim man in an unambiguously good role and in addition as a patriot.”
Bollywood’s changing tides
That role and the film’s subsequent success could possibly be evidence of a shifting future for Bollywood. In Canada. And looking out on the crushing crowds in Canadian theatres alone, a once fading excitement for the genre is coming back full force.
At the identical time, that excitement hints intentional efforts to derail progressive elements in Bollywood aren’t prone to work.
“After I see any Bollywood movie, I take my political lens off. I just have a look at it from the attitude of entertainment,” theatre-goer Rajiv Kaushik told CBC News ahead of a screening of Pathaan in Vaughan, Ont.
“I’ve grown up in a secular India, [and] that is how I have a look at the movie. So I’m here to do the identical today.”