Jawan Review: One South Step For Shah Rukh Khan. One Giant Leap For Art Delivering Message With MassSRK just made our ovaries explode!
No matter how many times you screamed, “Ready, Chief!” when asked, “Ready ahh?” you’re probably not ready for the dhamaka you’re about to witness on screen. In Jawan, director Atlee Kumar takes every South film ingredient at his disposal—from over-the-top action to heavy emotional backstories and cheese masala dialogues—to concoct a mass-action entertainer that thrills. And serving it is Shah Rukh Khan, an unparalleled force of nature whose charisma enhances every flavour, touching a nerve with the particular social message this film has in heaps. Also starring Nayanthara, and supported by an ensemble of female characters and Vijay Sethupathi playing the baddie (and of course the cameos), SRK’s step down south is a giant leap for massy entertainment with a message.
The film also stars Priyamani, Sanya Malhotra, Ridhi Dogra, Girija Oak, Lehar Khan, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Sunil Grover, Eijaz Khan, Ashlesha Thakur, with a cameo by Deepika Padukone. It is written by Ramanagirivasan, the story and screenplay by Atlee, and the seeti-worthy dialogue is by Sumit Arora. The cinematography is by G.K. Vishnu, editing by Anthony L. Rueben, and music by Anirudh Ravichander.
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Shah Rukh Khan is Azad, a jailer of a women’s prison, who leads an all-women team to conduct a metro train hijack, in which the daughter of a powerful businessman is one of the hostages. Ace cop and hostage negotiator, Narmada Rai (Nayanthara), is brought in to tackle him, though he manages to escape and disappear once his absurd demands are met. What’s more, his hostages and the nation that watches him pull this stunt become his fans, because he’s a Robin Hood, i.e. takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He manages to force the government to do in a matter of hours what they deferred to do for years. *Cue in Nayak music*
Soon enough, he’s back, this time with a new hostage and demands. Amidst this cat-and-mouse game, the businessman, Kali Gaikwad (Vijay Sethupathi), also one of the biggest weapons dealers in the world, gets hot on his trail. And things of the romantic persuasion cook up between Azad and Narmada. As the story unfolds, the links slowly unravel—between Azad and these women, Azad and Kali, and Kali and Vikram Rathod, the name Azad uses while doing all of these missions and that has Kali spooked.
Also Read: Jawan Trailer Reaction: SRK’s Dialogue “Bete Ko Haath Lagaane Se Pehle…” Is Taking Over The Internet!
If you loved what SRK does in Pathaan, Jawan is that on steroids, with the south movie tadka a director like Atlee knows all too well how to work. Jawan gets off to a hoot-worthy start that’s straight out of the dark, gritty south action blockbusters we’ve come to love, like Bahubali and KGF. But it’s not the only explosive entry that SRK gets! There are three in total, one right before the interval that is one of my favourite sequences in the film, and it’s impossible to not whistle and clap at the purely massy spectacle you see on screen. The second half is loaded with such moments, where SRK, who started by paying tribute to the Thalaiva with ‘Lungi Dance’ in Chennai Express, channels the salt-and-pepper look and flicks a burning cigar to ignite an explosion, true Rajinikanth style.
For me, though, Jawan was full of nods and mirages I wanted to be true. The Matrix’s red pill, blue pill, the Khalnayak dialogue, or Azad being raised by one ‘Kaveri Amma’ (Swades) are obvious. But was the Bane mask-wearing extra a nod to The Dark Knight Rises, in which the city needs an anti-hero to clean up its crime-infested streets? Is Azad a nod to Aamir Khan in Rang De Basanti? Is Robin Hood a hoot to Salman’s Chulbul ‘Robin Hood’ Pandey? Is that Phantom Of The Opera-ish mask a hat-tip to Hrithik’s superhero Krrish?
The meticulously choreographed action has range—from mano y mano combat sequences that get inventive and gory to chases involving bikes, trucks, and cars. In true South style, Shah Rukh’s ineffable comic timing and Vijay Sethupathi’s deadpan humour are worked into these scenes to make them even more entertaining. The music explicitly tells you how every scene should feel, but in the action sequences, it only heightens the euphoria. With six action directors having reportedly worked on the film (Anal Arasu, Spiro Razatos, Yannick Ben, Sunil Rodrigues, Craig Macrae, and Kecha Khamphakdee), the action definitely doesn’t disappoint and is what makes the second half better than the first, which is a bit heavy on the social messaging.
In fact, Jawan’s heavy-handed and shaky social messaging works because it’s Shah Rukh Khan hand-delivering it to you, tempered with the humour that’s typical of south films. He leads both literal and figurative armies in the film. And at one point early on, I was afraid that we would have to see every team member’s sad backstory. This ended up being partially right; it is moving when these stories unfold because they’re everything that’s wrong with our country—corruption, economic offences, farmer suicides, defence scams, lack of infrastructure in healthcare, a systematic destabilisation of democratic processes… And yet, the easy resolution resembles a government PSA that starts with a problem and ends with happy faces within a span of minutes. The women empowerment, though it feels nice to watch, is incidental, a product of the plot and not so much an impactful statement. It’s taking a leaf out of Nayak and Shivaji The Boss books. But it works because it is sincere, and the timing of it feels cosmic.
Jawan feels as if the entire universe conspired to help a beloved artist deliver a pointed message through his art. Is it weird that the gallows scene reminds one of Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, a film with a similar message that was way ahead of its time? Whether you believe the “Bete ko haath lagaane se pehle…” dialogue was an answer to an IRL question in the superstar’s life or his monologue about voting for a government that actually works for you an appeal. Whether you’re a fan who felt the anger on behalf of your favourite hero, a woman who wants to seize the power from men to put things right, or simply a true patriot frustrated with progress laced with regress that’s the current state of our nation, watching Jawan might actually feel cathartic and somewhat vindicating. As some of us believe, Shah Rukh Khan is therapy. Make him ek din ka PM and he might just put things right with a spread of his arms.
Jawan is a Shah Rukh Khan film through and through, but Vijay Sethupathi’s stylish and funny villain has our attention!
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Right from its opening sequence, where we see the mummified Moon Knight version of the many faces that Shah Rukh Khan dons (hehehe see what I did there?) in the film, Jawan delivers on the range promised by the trailer. SRK looks incredibly sexy in each of the looks! So does Nayanthara who is a scene stealer in her badass gun-trotting cop avatar. I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love SRK and Nayanthara’s chemistry, but that’s also why I wish we got more of it. Deepika Padukone’s cameo is public knowledge, her chemistry with SRK loved, and she plays her emotional part like the star she is. The girl gang, led by Sanya Malhotra and Priyamani, make for an able supporting cast, along with Suni Grover and Ridhi Dogra. The little girl who plays Nayanthara’s daughter, Seeza Saroj Mehta, lights up the scenes she is in.
But it is Vijay Sethupathi as Kali Gaikwad that has our attention when it is slightly diverted from SRK because Sethupathi absolutely demands it! In one rather emotional scene, with the SRK dialogue that gets the loudest hoots in the entire film (yes, that one), you’re poised to cry, a tear clinging to your eyelashes. And bam! Sethupathi says the funniest thing in his quintessential style and you’re laughing loudly! There’s also a cameo that you probably know about, and it is absolutely worth the hype!
Pathaan was Simba. Jawan is Mufasa. And you’ll know what I mean once you watch the film!
Atlee’s Jawan is a full south-style mass action entertainer only enhanced by Shah Rukh Khan’s indomitable star power. Its pointed albeit heavy-footed social messaging about the failures of the establishment might slow down its high-octane pace, but in the arms and charms of SRK, everything is hakuna matata. Don’t miss watching it on the big screen.
Jawan releases in theatres on September 7, 2023.
PS: The end credits, with a ZADDY SRK, might just make your ovaries explode, and will have you singing to SRK, “Beqaraar karke humein yun na jaaiye…”