Pathaan continues to win hearts in theatres three-and-a-half months after its release, becoming the first Bollywood film to go past the thousand-crore mark. Pathaan’s roaring success comes at a time when other big releases like Selfie and Shehzada failed to perform well at the box office.
While the movie owes a great deal to the physical transformation of lead actor Shahrukh Khan, the chemistry between Khan and Deepika Padukone as well as the action scenes with John Abraham, SRK’s fans contributed significantly to Pathaan’s success through special screenings and merchandise sales.
Aanchal Jhamb, a manager at a startup in Noida and a member of the SRK Universe fan club on Twitter, was counting down the days before the launch of the film.
Jhamb stated that after waiting for four years, one month, and four days, the group could not get enough of the actor who had done so much for all of them. “We grew up watching his films and falling in love with him, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to witness his charisma on the big screen after such a long time,” 30-year-old Jhamb remarked. The Twitter fan club SRK Universe is dedicated to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, who has a massive fan following in India and beyond.
“We organised a number of events for Pathaan, including the First Day First Show that drew nearly 50,000 people, a special show on January 26 for Delhi Police and NGO kids, an IMAX show, and two single-screen shows. The entire auditorium of the Cinepolis TDI Rajouri garden was booked for the screening, with 60 attendees from the N.G.O. and Police department and the remaining audience comprising fans who thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The event left a lasting impression on all those present,” Jhamb said.
Vishal Raj, a Shahrukh Khan fan, compared the release of Pathaan to a festival. “Any SRK release is no less than a festival for us,” he said. “We were all excited to make it huge, and some fans even made Pathaan-themed chocolates for the occasion. Watching the movie with the SRK family, we have built for years now is a different experience. I am glad we have stood together in every movie,” the 24-year-old MCA student said.
Raj and his group of fans have been arranging special screenings since Dilwale. “It is a family now,” Raj, who lives in New Ashok Nagar, explained. “We arrange parties and get-togethers to keep the bond strong. Like Shahrukh, we believe in spreading love and smiles. After every event, if even a single person is added to the family, we consider ourselves blessed,” Raj gushed.
Sidharth Kenji Gupta (26), another member of the SRK fan club, noted that the participation in personalised merchandise is impressive, whether it be through t-shirts, wristbands, meals, or personalised merchandise. “We raised approximately Rs. 10,600 from merchandise sales, with Rs. 8,200 going towards T-shirts, Rs. 1,850 for bands, and approximately Rs. 1,600 for badges,” said Gupta, who works as a data analyst.
He went on to describe the hectic preparations leading up to the film’s release. “Before the film’s release, the entire process is beyond words. We’re racing against the clock to finish the theatre, manage costs for accessories simultaneously, and try to accommodate as many people as possible while also managing our offices and daily routines,” Gupta, a Gurugram resident, added. “It’s unbelievable in every way.”
Pathaan not only shattered box office records but revived around 25 single-screen theatres and transformed theatres into stadiums, bringing back the soul of Hindi cinema. The film became the most successful Hindi film ever, grossing Rs. 500 crore in Hindi, had the biggest opening day for any Indian film, and came as a career-high for Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and John Abraham.
While some film critics argued that Pathaan was an average film with over-the-top action sequences, a faulty screenplay, a predictable story plot, forced comedy sequences, mediocre acting, and average VFX, the audience’s love for Shahrukh Khan propelled the film to its grand success. The film was warmly received not only in India but outside it as well.
Film critic Murtaza Ali Khan attributes the success of “Pathaan” to its mass appeal and the audience’s decision not to be swayed by online narratives. “Despite boycott campaigns, the audience made it clear that they will watch whatever they want,” Khan said.
He noted that the film’s success was also due to the sizzling chemistry between Shahrukh and Deepika, the intense battle scenes between John and Shahrukh, and the chart-topping songs.
Khan also pointed out that the film showcased Shahrukh Khan in a mass avatar that audiences rarely get to see, and combined with his widespread popularity and brand value, the positive elements of the film outweighed all negative press.
When asked if “Pathaan” signalled a comeback for Shahrukh Khan, the critic said that every actor goes through a dry spell, and this was no different for Shahrukh. However, he sees this as the start of a new era for the actor as an action hero for the next five to seven years, similar to Liam Neeson’s late-career resurgence.
Murtaza concluded that the coming decade would be dominated by Shahrukh Khan, with highly anticipated films like “Jawan,” “Tiger 3,” and the revival of the “Don” franchise.