Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s latest film Pathaan, which releases next week, has been hitting the headlines in India for the past several weeks.
The interest is hardly surprising – Khan is among India’s biggest and most-loved stars. Charming, funny and with millions of fans at home and abroad, the actor is often described as Bollywood’s “most important cultural export”, whose popularity travels beyond his films. His fans endearingly refer to him as King Khan or the King of Bollywood.
And Pathaan is his first film after a four-year hiatus.
The 57-year-old is making a comeback on the big screen after a series of setbacks in his personal and professional life, including the arrest of his son Aryan Khan last year on fake charges of drug possession – the charges were eventually dropped – and a number of films that didn’t do well.
The gap has piqued interest in Khan and also led to a heightened scrutiny of the film, which also stars Deepika Padukone, one of India’s most popular stars, and John Abraham.
Starting in December when the filmmakers began releasing promotional videos of Pathaan’s songs, the film has been the subject of incessant chatter on social media.
And since its trailer dropped last week, the fan frenzy has peaked.
It has been watched more than 49 million times on YouTube. Khan’s tweet of the Hindi trailer has had 3.9 million views and an additional half a million each for the Telugu and Tamil versions.
Reports say there has been “exceptional response” to advanced ticket sales in the US, UAE, Germany and Australia.
The plot, described by fans as a crossover between James Bond and Mission Impossible films, is rather predictable.
A terrorist group is seeking to destroy India with “an attack they could not have imagined”. The authorities scramble to fight them, but time is running out. At stake is the country’s future. So, they put their best man to work.
“If you dare to party at Pathaan’s house, then I will have to come to greet you – with fireworks,” an unmistakable voice sneers at us, as Khan makes an appearance.
A suave spy with tousled hair and chiselled biceps and abs, Khan effortlessly takes down enemies, hops on moving vehicles, rappels down skyscrapers and seduces women while trying to save his nation from evil forces, led by Abraham. A pulsing music track accompanies the shots.