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Bollywood film 'Pathaan' sparks dance parties in theaters

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Bollywood spy thriller "Pathaan" has all the ingredients of a great action film...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PATHAAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Ma'am, we have a red flag.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) They're planning a massive attack, and their target - India.

SUMMERS: ...Jetpacks, motorcycle chases down snow-covered ski slopes and a ton of explosions.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PATHAAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) So are you in or are you out?

SUMMERS: And with its catchy soundtrack, it is sparking dance parties in India's theaters as the credits roll.

(CHEERING)

SUMMERS: Seriously, these videos are incredible. And this film is also burning up all kinds of records at the box office with the biggest opening weekend sales of all time for a Bollywood film in India and also here in North America, where it is playing on 700 screens. Film writer Timon Singh reviewed the movie for Empire Online, and he joins us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

TIMON SINGH: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

SUMMERS: So just to get us started, for people who have not seen this film, give us a brief description of what this movie's all about, but please don't give us any spoilers.

SINGH: Sure. So "Pathaan" is very much in the vein of a "Mission Impossible," "Fast & Furious" film. It stars Shah Rukh Khan as an Indian super spy who is basically caught up in a plot by an international cabal of terrorists who are trying to launch an attack on India. And so he's got to contend with double agents, stolen viruses and a whole host of spectacular action sequences to save the day. But "Pathaan" is also like the fourth installment in a very successful action franchise known as the Yash Raj Films spy universe. So it kind of builds on three films that have gone before. And that, coupled with the return of Shah Rukh Khan, who's known as the king of Bollywood, after a four-year hiatus, I think you've just got the perfect storm for a massive Bollywood blockbuster hit.

SUMMERS: I have to imagine that there are a lot of people out there who are really excited to see him back on the screens.

SINGH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he has been the king of Bollywood for close to, I want to say, four decades now. So he looks like a god. He's 57 years old. And within the first 5 minutes, he's just there, you know, abs rock hard, hair blowing in the breeze. He just looks like the ultimate action star. And I think that's something that Indian cinema does that Hollywood doesn't. It's not afraid to make its action heroes look as glorious as possible. There's always a heightened realism in these films, and they just go all-in.

SUMMERS: We've just got to talk about these incredible dance parties. I mean, I've had my phone in my hand, and I've been watching some of these clips of videos on social media. And people seem like they are just living their best lives, having a blast.

SINGH: Well, I mean, elaborate dance sequences are just part of Indian cinema. And I think that, coupled with the return of Shah Rukh Khan to the film, the film's really engaging songs and just such a big, all-encompassing blockbuster that gets everyone across all demographics, I think that's just led to a little bit of a cultural euphoria. And these little dance parties that you see on social media are just an indication of that.

SUMMERS: As we've been discussing, this film has already been very successful. But taking a step back for a moment, does the success of this film tell us a larger story about Bollywood today and what could come in the future?

SINGH: I think it's very much like Hollywood. No one really knows anything until something's a hit. But unlike Hollywood, where there are very few major stars anymore - I think you have Tom Cruise - whose name can still open a film, most of the properties are based around the Marvel superhero rather than the actor playing it. But Indian cinema is still primarily built around the star. But in recent years, Maya Khan (ph) and Hrithik Roshan have both had films that have not performed as well at the box office as intended. And then Shah Rukh Khan comes along, defies the odds and the box office analysis and delivers a box office smash. So I'd expect another installment in the Yash Raj spy universe. Like James Bond, Pathaan will return. And I expect Shah Rukh Khan to continue his reign as king of Bollywood.

SUMMERS: That is film writer Timon Singh talking about the Bollywood film "Pathaan," which is playing in theaters across the U.S. now. Thank you so much for being here.

SINGH: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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MoviesMusicMorning EditionAll Things Considered
Ivy Winfrey
Christopher Intagliata
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.