• Saturday, July 20, 2024


EYE SPY: Return of the king

How Shah Rukh Khan ruled again with Pathaan hit

Shah Rukh Khan


A FEW weeks before the release of the 2018 film Zero I went for dinner with a famous Bollywood actor friend, who was praising the trailer and saying it was a sure-fire blockbuster.

I disagreed and predicted it would be a huge disaster, even if the movie miraculously turned out to be a masterpiece, which it wasn’t.

That is because I knew Hindi audiences wouldn’t accept a hero they adore like Shah Rukh Khan playing a dwarf.

Apart from the odd exception, Bollywood audiences want their heroes to play larger-than-life figures, and Zero didn’t offer that, so became a big box-office failure. It did so badly, despite having a lucrative Christmas release date and state-of-the-art special effects, that Khan retreated from playing a lead role for just over four years. Many started predicting his career as a frontline hero was effectively over.

Although the failure of the film had initially hit Khan hard, it turned out to be a big blessing in disguise because it made him re-evaluate a glittering career that had been in a dramatic decline. After a series of self-indulgent misfires, that period of reflection was perhaps long overdue.

The superstar actor took a step back, to do something he hadn’t done for a long time, which was to see what was working with audiences and how to re-invent himself.

The biggest trend in Indian cinema has been the resurgence of the action genre, which has led to regional language movies overtaking Bollywood. Audiences are no long accepting ageing heroes in their fifties playing young romantic roles.

Shah Rukh Khan in Pathaan

Khan teamed up with Yash Raj Films (YRF), the banner he has had the most success with, for his comeback project Pathaan and Siddharth Anand, who had reinvented himself as a director with the successful action film War (2019). Pathaan was then connected to the YRF banner’s massively successful Tiger action film franchise, with its lead star Salman Khan brought in for a cameo to play the same title character.

Pathaan was also made part of a new spy universe, that has the two Tiger movies and War. Current Bollywood queen Deepika Padukone was roped in to play the leading lady and the story tapped into the patriotic fervour, that has swept across India in recent years.

Khan also reinvented himself with a new age-appropriate action persona and backed up the movie with a huge budget. Despite all this meticulous planning there was no guarantee of success because Bollywood has been going through the worst phase in its history. So, there was a lot of pressure in the lead up to Pathaan releasing globally. The film failing would have dealt a hammer blow to the actor and plunged him into an epic career crisis, along with doing catastrophic damage to Bollywood. But everything did fall into place and Pathaan has become a blockbuster success.

The action movie exceeding all expectations to clock up huge box office figures, has brought the former king of Bollywood back in from the wilderness.

After a decade of flops, the Pathaan success has potentially set up what could be the greatest year of the 57-year-old’s career. His next film Jawan, due in cinemas on June 2, is a unique action entertainer helmed by successful director Atlee and will present him to a Pan-Indian audience. Then he will round off the year with December release Dunki, which is written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who has a 100 per cent hit rate across the last 20 years, which has included multiple record-breakers. In between all that, he has a cameo in Salman Khan starrer Tiger 3, which is a third part of a hugely successful franchise.

These films will confirm that Khan is truly back and ready to reclaim his crown. It will also give much-needed hope to a Hindi movie industry that desperately needs it.

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Debattama Saha


ONE of the most interesting aspects of the February 17 Bollywood release Shehzada is the presence of Debattama Saha. The multi-talented TV star makes her movie debut with a supporting role in the remake of 2020 Telugu action-drama Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. This first step could be the beginning of something special for the highly rated actress, and accomplished singer.

She enjoyed working in writer/director Rohit Dhawan’s movie headlined by Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon and Paresh Rawal. She told me: “My experience shooting for Shehzada was one of a kind. It was a pleasure working with Rohit sir. He is an amazing director and so wise. Paresh (Rawal) sir is undoubtedly an outstanding actor, and was nothing but humble and warm towards me. With Kartik, he is very professional and punctual about his work and cool to  work with too!”

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Masaba Gupta (R) with Satyadeep Misra


TOP fashion designer turned actress Masaba Gupta tied the knot with actor Satyadeep Misra at an intimate ceremony, attended by close family and friends. Interestingly, the happy couple met on the sets of her show Masaba Masaba and it is the second marriage for both of them. Gupta was previously married to producer Madhu Mantena and Misra to actress Aditi Rao-Hydari.


INDIAN TV has amazing young talents with up to a decade of acting experience and huge fan bases, yet a struggling Bollywood industry regularly ignores them and carries on going down a disastrous nepotism path. The latest newcomers to benefit from family connections are Raveena Tandon’s daughter Rasha Tandon (right) and Ajay Devgn’s nephew Aaman Devgan. They will make their acting debut in an Abhishek Kapoor directed film later this year.

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A scene from Joyland


IT MAY not have got an Oscar nomination, but Joyland broke new ground by becoming the first Pakistani film to get onto the shortlist of the Best International Feature Film category and should be applauded. The powerful drama, along with smash hit film The Legend Of Maula Jatt, has launched an exciting new era for Pakistani cinema. UK  audiences will get a chance to see Joyland when it is out in cinemas on February 24.


ONE of this year’s most interesting movies isn’t from India, Pakistan, or Hollywood, but British action-comedy Polite Society. Award-winning writer/director Nida Manzoor has followed up her hit Channel 4 comedy series We Are Lady Parts with this unique film about a British-Asian woman trained in martial arts, who decides to pull off a wedding heist. She has assembled a talented cast that includes Ritu Arya, whose impressive credits include mega-budget Hollywood film Red Notice and popular drama series The Umbrella Academy. The movie, due to be released on April 28, is backed by powerful producers behind countless all-time classics, so looks like being a sure-fire winner.

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Chand Ali Khan


WHETHER it is bhangra, Bollywood, ghazals or classical music, UK artists have regularly stepped up to sing sub-continental genres really well, but that hasn’t been the case with qawwali. Rising star Chand Ali Khan (above) is changing all that by spearheading a great qawwali group that regularly delivers explosive live performances around the UK.

The hard working artist is connecting Sufi classics to a younger generation and showing audiences that Britain can produce a great qawwali artist. Perhaps the greatest thing about him is that he will get even better and that makes him one to watch. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan also made him his first UK musical disciple. The group has concerts lined up in the coming months, including at the Beck Theatre in Hayes on February 18.

Instagram: @chandalikhanqawwal

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Mindy Kaling


AFTER flying high in Hollywood with huge successes, Mindy Kaling has come crashing back down to earth with the biggest failure of her career so far. Velma, her six-part reimaging of iconic cartoon Scooby Doo, has been savaged by audiences and is now the lowest-rated animated series on IMDB. She produced and provided the voice for the title character, which she turned into a bisexual of South Asian heritage. Whilst some have appreciated the contemporary swagger she tried to bring to the series, most agreed that it just didn’t work and why there likely won’t be a second series.


MOST people don’t realise that successful Hollywood actress Rhona Mitra is British Asian and likely aren’t aware of an incredibly life-changing decision she took. The 46-year-old, born in London to a Bengali Indian father and Irish mother, gave up her plush life in Los Angeles to go live alone on a 400-acre farm in a remote part of Uruguay. She raises animals, grows her own food, tackles the harsh terrain, and has never been happier. You can find out more about her fascinating story and see her stunning home in nature by watching a recent episode of Channel 5 show Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, which is available on catch up. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram: @IamRhonaMitra


AMERICAN director James Cameron is currently a firm favourite with Indians. His smash-hit sequel Avatar: The Way of Water has become the highest grossing Hollywood film of all-time in India and outperformed pretty much all the Bollywood releases of recent years. Cameron’s conversation at an awards ceremony, heaping praise on director SS Rajamouli for his film RRR was caught on camera and went viral on social media. He also intriguingly offered Rajamouli the chance to work in Hollywood, which has everyone excited.

  • The first look trailer of Alia Bhatt’s Hollywood film Heart Of Stone has received a positive response. The action thriller headlined by Gal Gadot will have a direct to Netflix release on August 11.
  • Forthcoming Bollywood film Afwaah will be released on February 24. The thriller stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Bhumi Pednekar.
  • Netflix film Mumbai Mafia: Police vs Underworld is well worth watching. It gives a fascinating insight into the battle between ruthless gangsters and trigger-happy police officers in Mumbai.
  • Now that RRR track Naatu Naatu has got a Best Original Song Oscar nomination, audiences can look forward to a stunning live performance of it at the ceremony on March 13. It has won multiple awards including a Golden Globe, so will be a hot favourite.
  • Look out next week for a special feature on the top Bollywood remakes of Telugu movies, across the decades.

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