YRF Spy Universe, Explained: How Is Shah Rukh’s “Pathaan” Linked To Salman’s “Tiger” & Hrithik’s “War”?


Before Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, or John Abraham appeared on the screen, an unfamiliar logo showed up that read: YRF (Yash Raj Films) Spy Universe. Then, as we followed the story of Pathaan (Shah Rukh Khan), Kabir’s (Hrithik Roshan) name popped up a few times. And then, after the intermission, a very familiar face made a bombastic entry; he was referred to as “Tiger” (Salman Khan), and the entire theater erupted in applause. Now, anyone who hasn’t been following all or at least some of YRF’s latest ventures must have been extremely confused about what was going on. Well, to put it simply, “Pathaan” has established that it is part of a larger cinematic universe (since it’s the latest craze nowadays) that’s made of “Ek Tha Tiger,” “Tiger Zinda Hai,” and “War.” For a descriptive explanation, read on.

Major Spoilers Ahead

‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’

After “Pathaan,” it’s clear that Kabir Khan’s “Ek Tha Tiger” was the first installment in the franchise. The story, penned by Khan and Neelesh Misra, was a whole lot of nothing. Tiger, who is from the Indian spy agency RAW, and Zoya (Katrina Kaif), who is from the Pakistani spy agency ISI, met during a surveillance mission in Dublin. Tiger was supposed to kill Zoya when he found out that she was after the same person that he was searching for. But, since they were in love, Tiger let her live. While attending a multilateral UN meeting in Istanbul, the duo finally confessed their love for each other and went on the run because they were aware of the fact that their respective countries wouldn’t allow that because of their nationalities. Both RAW and ISI started hunting them down. However, since they were so good at their jobs, they managed to thwart both agencies and flee to an unknown location.

“Tiger Zinda Hai,” which was written and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, not only confirmed that Tiger and Zoya were living in a remote cabin in Austria, but they also had a son named Junior (Sartaaj Kakkar). They had apparently given up on their espionage-ridden lives. But when news of Indian and Pakistani nurses being held hostage by a terrorist organization in Tikrit, led by Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz), reached the couple, they sprung into action. Three members of RAW came with Tiger: Rakesh (Kumud Mishra), Namit (Angad Bedi), and Azaan (Paresh Pahuja). Two members of ISI came with Zoya: Captain Abrar (Gavie Chahal) and Captain Javed (Danish Bhatt). There were two other RAW agents who joined Tiger’s cause, i.e., Firdaus (Paresh Rawal) and Pawan (Nawab Shah). Pawan and Azaan died in combat, while the rest managed to save all the nurses before a U.S. drone strike, kill a lot of ISC terrorists, and also put an end to Usman. Later, it was confirmed that Zoya and Tiger had gone off to Greece instead of returning to their respective countries for debriefing and were living there with Junior and his recently adopted brother, Hassan (Jineet Rath), a 13-year-old kid from Iraq, who was tasked with a suicide-bombing mission by Usman but was saved by Tiger.


The Siddharth Anand directed film that counts as the third entry in the YRF Spy Universe revolves around the rivalry between a rogue RAW agent, Major Kabir, and his student, Captain Khalid (Tiger Shroff). Kabir was on a mission to uncover India’s connection to a terrorist/businessman, Rizwan Ilyasi (Mashhoor Amrohi). In that process, he killed several Indian government officers in high places. So, Khalid was tasked with taking him down, despite Colonel Luthra’s (Ashutosh Rana’s) apprehension that Kabir and Khalid’s old teacher-student relationship would hamper the manhunt. Eventually, it was revealed that the Khalid we were following wasn’t Khalid at all. Instead, it was Saurabh (Yash Raaj Singh), who had undergone plastic surgery to replace Khalid after killing the original in an earlier mission. The movie concluded with Kabir killing or merely trapping Saurabh underneath the rubble of a church. The real Khalid was given a posthumous bravery award, and Kabir was spotted surfing with his deceased lover, Naina’s (Vaani Kapoor) daughter, Ruhi (Dishita Sehgal). That said, Kabir was tasked with taking down Iraqi terrorist Farid Haqqani, the mission that started the film, but without the help of RAW or the Indian army.

As someone who hadn’t watched “Tiger Zinda Hai” before watching “War,” I definitely missed some of the connections between them. For starters, Khalid (the original one), Kabir, and other RAW agents went to Tikrit to kill some of Haqqani’s men and arrest Basheer Hassib. Tikrit was the same place where the entirety of “Tiger Zinda Hai” took place. And with Abu Usman dead, it’s possible that Haqqani has turned out to be the next big threat over there. The second and most obvious clue was Anupriya Goenka, who played Poorna in “Tiger Zinda Hai” and Aditi in “War.” Now, this could be a case of the casting director accidentally making the same actor play two different roles. But it was mentioned in “Tiger Zinda Hai” that Poorna was getting married, and in “War,” we see Aditi getting married. So, it’s quite possible that Aditi is a secret agent who was undercover among the nurses, but she didn’t reveal it to Tiger or his team. Maybe those were her orders from Luthra or Kabir himself. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see if Tiger finds out about Aditi’s true identity. Lastly, there are the “not-so-subtle, but kind of subtle” lewd jokes. Please take this lightly, but in “Tiger Zinda Hai,” Tiger’s team was kept in room 69, and the elevator activation code punched in by Khalid (the fake one) was 80085 (if you’ve ever used a calculator, you know what it is).


After Pathaan’s first altercation with Jim, the leader of a terrorist organization called Outfit X, the first thing that we learned was that he was an ex-RAW agent. Everyone assumed he died, and he was posthumously given a gallantry award. When Colonel Luthra mentioned that Jim and Kabir were two of RAW’s best agents, I thought Jim was the partner that Kabir was talking about, who was killed by Khalid’s father, Major Abdul Rahmani. But then we were shown that Jim was captured by Somalian terrorists, and his pregnant wife was killed before him. Since Colonel Luthra didn’t sanction the money that those terrorists were asking for, Jim faked his death and sought revenge against RAW and India for the deaths of his wife and his unborn child. So, I guess the only connection between Jim and Kabir was that they were the best agents during their tenure at RAW, and both of them had worked under Colonel Luthra. Side note: Pathaan did continue the trend of making lewd jokes by misspelling the word “ruble.”

As you must’ve figured out by now, Tiger’s entry in “Pathaan” got such applause because his character has made quite the name after his two adventures. In addition to that, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have a long-running personal and professional history. The two have been friends since 1995’s “Karan Arjun.” In fact, that movie was referenced in “Pathaan” as the two ran side-by-side after a fight on the train. At one point, Tiger even did a version of the “Bhaag Arjun bhaag” (Run Arjun run) phrase by saying “Bhaag Pathaan bhaag” (Run Pathaan run). When they were fighting atop the train, apart from Tiger and Pathaan’s tunes, the theme of “War” could be heard as well, thereby serving as a reminder of the franchise’s musical interconnectedness. When Pathaan and Rubina (Deepika Padukone) infiltrated Jim’s lair in Afghanistan, he pointed out the recurring theme of RAW agents falling in love with ISI agents that started with Tiger and Zoya and has been extended by Pathaan and Rubina. And during the concluding moments of the film, Tiger and Kabir’s names were uttered by Luthra as he tasked Pathaan with forming a team of former soldiers to fight various threats.

What Can We Expect From ‘Tiger 3’ and Future YRF Spy Universe Movies?

Regarding “Tiger 3,” which is slated to release on Diwali 2023, there’s a pretty heavy-handed hint that Tiger is headed for a big mission, and he needs Pathaan’s help. Hence, there’s a good chance that Shah Rukh Khan is going to show up alongside Salman Khan, equipped with painkillers and whatnot, to keep themselves functional. I am not sure for whom Tiger is working now. Girish Karnad played Shenoy, Tiger’s boss. But since Karnad passed away, the character has been retired. We did see Dimple Kapadia’s Ma’am informing Pathaan about Tiger’s arrival. That means Tiger was in contact with Ma’am. However, even she’s dead. So, it’s possible that a completely new character will be introduced as Tiger’s confidant. It’s also possible that we’ll be seeing him and Zoya working all on their own. By the way, Tiger’s appearance also confirms that he’s not seeking retirement anytime soon. However, with Junior and Hassan growing up, I want to see him and Zoya tackle both parenthood and spy work and see how one weighs on the other and vice versa.

Hrithik Roshan is busy working with Siddharth Anand in a non-YRF film called “Fighter,” which coincidentally has Deepika Padukone in it. Just to be clear, it has nothing to do with “War.” It’s a different production altogether. That said, I hope that Roshan gets to sneak in a cameo in “Tiger 3” or appear in the post-credits. I think that YRF is saving the big Shah Rukh Khan-Salman Khan-Hrithik Roshan trifecta for “War 2.” But if we get a little tease before that, I won’t be complaining. Talking about post-credits, Pathaan and Tiger’s conversation is both an indicator that the Spy Universe is going to be the home for Indian action stars and also a disclaimer that self-proclaimed action stars won’t be included in the roster. The aforementioned three stars are surely going to be the faces of the franchise for as long as they are physically capable of portraying their roles. I guess that they’re planning to make Tiger Shroff the bad guy of the franchise because he’s the only one who is capable of holding his own against these three. Beyond all this guesswork, I am just excited to see where this newly established franchise goes and see all these action stars hog the limelight on the big screen.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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