Pathaan Teaser Trailer Breakdown: Influences, Story, Noteworthy Moments

Analyzing the recently released teaser trailer of Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan.

It’s been 2 days since the teaser trailer of Pathaan dropped. Produced by Yash Raj Films (YRF), Pathaan is being widely anticipated given that it’s being touted as Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s (SRK) comeback vehicle after a string of films that did not do well, culminating in 2018’s Zero. For the uninitiated, Pathaan is also being considered as YRF’s foray into creating their own cinematic universe which is colloquially being referred to as the SpyVerse. Other movies or franchises that are expected to be set in this universe include Salman Khan’s Tiger series of films and Hrithik Roshan’s War.

I don’t generally deep-dive into Indian films, but I did briefly cover War when it was released back in the day. Pathaan piqued my interest, leading me to explore both the movie and the teaser a bit more closely to see if I could glean any interesting facts. Given that the teaser is thin on details, I felt it’d be best to cull together some key moments and observations from the teaser instead of penning a series of articles about what may otherwise amount to minor tidbits. But first, for those of you who have yet to catch a glimpse of the teaser, here you go:

Much like War, the teaser is thin on giving out any sort of details about the movie’s plot. This is a remarkably refreshing development to see in recent Bollywood films. Standard marketing dictates that Indian films get a long-running 2.5+ minute trailer that summarizes the entire movie while leaving enough out to entice you to get to trailers. Director Siddharth Anand has, however, bucked the trend with his movies, opting for a more international style of promotions with a 1-1.5 minute long teaser, followed by an extended trailer that lays out the plot of the movie. The teaser is generally an assortment of action sequences strung together to give a general feel of the movie without getting into specifics. Both Bang Bang and War got the same treatment so it’s no surprise that Pathaan is different.

Sadly, the trend means we’ll need to wait for the 2+ minute trailer to glean more details about the story. That said, we can piece together a few points from this teaser, online conversations and past news that has been circulating about the movie. The teaser begins with SRK’s character in custody. It is suggested that he is captured by a rival faction or agency and undergoes extreme torture without giving anything vital, eventually breaking free and, if the final shot is from the same sequence, flying off to the skies. We’re then introduced to the other leads as well as multiple set pieces that will be the highlight of the movie sequences in Dubai and Spain as well as a high-octane chase across frozen ice.

We’re at least privy to two major set pieces in Pathaan – one set in Dubai and another set in Russia. Purportedly, the one in Russia is set to feature Salman Khan’s extended 20-minute cameo as Avinash Singh Rathore from the Tiger series of films. When Pathaan was being filmed, rumors circulated around that scene involving Pathaan captured by the Russian mafia with Tiger arriving to rescue him. From the trailer, it looks like the opening scenes where Pathaan undergoes torture could be from the same sequence. It takes place in an interior set, which would have made it convenient to film Russia on a YRF set (as was the case). In fact, Pathaan’s words “zinda hai” could be in response to someone calling out Tiger’s name, perfectly alluding to the second installment Tiger Zinda Hai. If so, that sequence is likely to occur during the middle of the film, as opposed to the opening.

The second major sequence seen in the trailers is in Dubai. John Abraham’s unnamed character wreaks havoc by blowing up a cop car with a rocket launcher. This entire set-piece, coupled with Abraham and SRK’s characters dueling it atop a truck could very well form the movie’s climax. This is also where the scenes shot in the Burj Khalifa will come into play which I suspect haven’t been revealed in the teaser yet. Abraham walks across the streets of Dubai in a nonchalant tone with a rocket launcher and flips a coin. It’s far fetched to draw any conclusions here but his character is supposedly a for-hire terrorist of sorts, his religion being money. And he helps the Russian mafia expand their arms trade, which could explain how he’s able to gain access to such heavyduty weapons.

Among the many countries that SRK’s character will travel to as part of the story is Spain. This, I believe, is where Deepika Padukone’s character is either stationed or resides. Most of her scenes should be heavily set in Spain, save for a few appearances outside of this, or perhaps in the climax. I’m getting strong “Vaani Kapoor” vibes from her role in that she’s likely going to be around in Spain but somehow doesn’t appear much in the rest of the movie. She kicks goons wearing a sarong of sorts, which could be her introduction scene. Soon after, she’s seen jumping off a cliff wearing the same outfit with SRK’s character, suggesting it’s one continuous scene. And they have a massive, lavishly shot song in Spain, which should be a foot-tapping number, much like “Ghunghroo” in War.

The similarities with War are uncanny. Pathaan has a central, heroic theme that very much echoes Kabir’s theme from War and sounds like it’s set in the same universe. The quality of action and storytelling should be similar. The female protagonist’s role sounds similar as well. Which also means there should be a major twist coming in somewhere in the movie that should help flip the stakes a lot. No other major characters are seen or heard, but we do hear Dimple Kapadia’s voiceover at the beginning when SRK’s character is being interrogated. And of course, there’s the now-popular floating fan theory that Kabir’s buddy from War who was (believed to be) slain at the hands of Khalid’s father is none other than Pathaan himself, who somehow survived.

But War isn’t the only movie this borrows from. Several other influences are seen as well. The trailer itself begins in a style that’s very reminiscent of The Bourne Legacy trailer, with the rectangular stripes offering a windowed look into scenes as the rest of it is black screen. In fact, the quick-cut style of the trailer not only seems apt for the kind of movie, but serves as a homage to the quick-cut action style that Matt Damon’s Bourne series so heavily popularized.

The Bourne Legacy Teaser Trailer Edit Style
Pathaan Teaser Trailer Bourne Legacy Inspiration

Abraham’s character outfit has some echoes of Idris Elba’s character outfit in Hobbs and Shaw. In that movie, Elba was pretty much playing a superhero injected with some serum to give him enhanced abilities. Let’s hope they don’t go that route seeing as Abraham already tried it with Attack.

Hobbs and Shaw Idris Elba Outfit
Pathaan Teaser Trailer John Abraham Outfit

The trailertop fight sounds like a cool homage to the freeway chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded, bringing back memories of the incredible fight between Morpheus and Agent Johnson. In fact, that sequence seems designed to take place on an extended piece of freeway, much like a similar sequence in Reloaded. If so, expect a long, continuous panning shot that circles around the trailer and zeroes in on the leads before the fight begins.

Pathaan Teaser Trailer Matrix Inspiration
The Matrix Reloaded Freeway Morpheus Agent Johnson Fight

Lastly, there’s a nice, probably unintentional callback to Bollywood’s own Dus when Pathaan drops a bombs while on a bike.

Dus Zayed Khan
Pathaan Teaser Trailer Dus Inspiration

Overall, Pathaan sounds like it’ll be a Fast & Furious meets Mission: Impossible meets Bourne movie set in the same vein as Siddharth Anand’s prior ventures Bang Bang and War. There’s definitely potential for it to deliver a fun, massy, entertaining action movie with a few teases sprinkled here and there to set the foundation for SpyVerse. I won’t say I’m supremely excited by it but it has me intrigued enough to follow it through.

Pathaan releases in traditional 2D and IMAX theaters on January 25, 2023 in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.