Ek aadmi desh ki janta ko remind kara raha hai ki savaal poochna mat roko. Done with pacifism, he has come down to throwing punches. Sarkaar se naakhush, suffering due to capitalism. There is a rage that’s taken over his whole life, desh par bharosa karne ke baad bhi jab dil aur armaan dono ho tootein, toh prison mein jaakar militia hi taiyyar karni padegi.
You know what is happening right now? Doston this is the return of Bollywood’s Angry Young Man.
Is saal ki doosri Shah Rukh Khan movie hai yeh, aur doosri baar his introduction scene has him beaten, broken, bruised, but undefeated. Kahaan Shah Rukh khud khatam hote hai aur kahaan unke characters ab shuru ho rahe hain, the actor is himself going out of his way to blur that line. Sure, in real life, he isn’t beating people to a pulp, jab khud ke seene mein goli lagi hai, par like Karan Johar in Rocky Rani, in Jawan, there is enough self-referential, 4th wall break dialogue to remind you who the man is behind the character, and how personal ALL of this is.
As far as cinematic syntax goes, Jawan is ALL OVER the place. Cohesive screenplay? We don’t know her. But Atlee with constant collaborator Ramana Girivasan keeps the chaos structured enough to keep bringing it back to the cornerstone of the film, Shah Rukh Khan, and what he means to a nation, once you look beyond his immense popularity. In Jawan, he’s an army man, a jailer, a terrorist, a lover, a son a father, and despite the cacophony, you won’t find yourself asking the real SRK to please stand up, because, at the end of it, he is SRK in ALL these roles. The actor goes beyond PATHAN to remind us, his adoring audience, that he’s GOT us. If Pathan promised continued superstardom in that scene with Salman where SRK commiserates ki humein hi karte rehna padega naye waalon se nahi hoga, Jawan reminds you WHAT this superstardom can be galvanized to achieve, in a nation feeling increasingly fragmented every passing day.
If one HAD to put Jawan in a genre, I suppose it would be action. But to be fair, the genre is pretty much ANYTHING that is happening. Why is a 6 or 7-year-old scouting a husband for her VERY accomplished mother, and WHY does that mother agree to marry this man she knows precious little about? Don’t ask these questions, the intention of the film is not to give you a love story. Atlee is only attempting to lure you IN with the promise of “yahaan sab kuch milta hai”, and then rapidly begins to show his hand, while he has your attention.
In one of the earlier sequences, a bald Vijay Rathore, SRK’s “terrorist” persona, dances inside a metro train he has hijacked with his gang of girls, You’ve seen the clip in promotional material, it is refreshingly unhinged. While I wish the movie as a whole leaned INTO this weird, kitschy-ness a little bit more, I am not upset it doesn’t, primarily because the film doesn’t give me room to ruminate on how I feel about its stylistic choices. Jawan is simply saying, look we know as a country we’ve got many, MANY issues, and the best way humans know how to deal with pain is to look the other way, but let us remind you, once and for all, what news media, journalism, debates, and experts should have the freedom to talk about, in a democratic nation.
Subtility ki scope hai hi nahi yahaan, ek nahi 600 cheezein hain address karne ke liye, kaise aapko dheere dheere samjhaayenge ek-ek cheez, ek film ke andar. This here is a FREIGHT train of conflicts and solutions, going as far back as invoking the Bhopal gas tragedy to oxygen shortage in hospitals across the country during the devastating, and quickly forgotten second wave of the covid pandemic. Hairsplitting mentatlity nahi hai, ki gas leak kyun hui, uska impact kya hai. As I said, this is the angry young citizen who doesn’t care about waiting for the finer details to present themselves but demands previous inaction be addressed, so we aren’t doomed to repeat history over and over again. Even the old citizens will have to start playing a young person’s game, to finally play their part in democracy they didn’t realize they had been ignoring their whole lives. Agli generation sudharne ka kaam picchli generation se start karna hoga.
Agar sunkar lag raha hai ki movie review mein itni political baatein kyun kar rahi hai Sucharita, it’s because yeh recent times ki sabse political mainstream film HAI. Screenplay itni jaldbaazi mein, ki farmers crises par bhi jaana hai, bank fraud par bhi, crony capitalism bhi issue hai, aur corruption bhi, health care bhi phail gaya hai voter fraud bhi, aur shayad time zyada bacha nahi hai ki intezaar karein koi oopar baitha hai joh jan-hit mein sochan shuru karega. Time khatam, patience khatam, elections hain kuch mahino mein, here is a deafening REMINDER of what all is at stake, a shake-down of how our helplessness has turned to apathy, and how one needs to find that anger and injustice and channel it toward change.
Jawan is not a documentary, but it may as well be. In one of the most movie sub-plots, Sanya Malhotra, an actor I love to watch but one I wish was utilized more in this film, plays Dr Eeram, incarcerated due to false charges of neglect that lead to children dying in a hospital she worked at. Without saying Dr. Kafeel Khan’s name out loud, one CANNOT deny this harks back to the very recent past when a doctor was sent to prison because he dared to organize oxygen cylinders on his own dime, giving local authorities a bad name. In one shot, Sanya falls to the feet of a man, begging for oxygen cylinders for children all showing suffering from encephalitis, and lives hanging by a thread. Even if you don’t remember this very same thing happening in 2017, 2021 toh yaad hoga? How many of these clips did we see on the internet, some still saved on our phones in Twitter archives? The cries of a man pleading for an oxygen cylinder for his mother, as he wrestled for it on a zebra crossing in the dead of the night, kept me awake for days on end. We saw this happen, hell we LOST family members, and yet, WHERE is the accountability? Instead, we have the head of state’s photos on our vaccine certificates and billboards telling us what a great job everyone did.
So no, it’s not a documentary but Jawan IS a densely packed, dizzying simulation of real life, constantly breaking the 4th wall to remind you of this. Sumit Arora’s dialogue, a character named Kaveri Amma, naam toh suna hi hoga, chhaiyya chhaiya, I mean ATLEE appears in one song and starts dancing with shah rukh. Bete ko haath lagaane se pehle baap se baat kar waali line mein extra reverb dekar, uska wazan kyun badhaya hai film mein, you decide.
Jawan is super eager to start talking about things it wants to address, and once you get over the bizarre-ness of its pacing, and the little too long sequence with Deepika Padukone, Jawan will enter your physical body and spread itself under your skin, if you’re an Indian citizen who has been paying ANY attention AT ALL.
Jawan is by no means a flawless film, Why is no one addressing the child’s name is Suji, Why are there SO many shots of cinematic tears rolling down faces, Was that Sonu Nigam I heard singing a song in English about how life goes on and on? The film doesn’t care, and neither should you. Look closely instead at what Jawan IS.
As much as the film is demanding accountability from people in power, it is also holding itself accountable. What is the point of turning a person from a regular human being into a godlike figure just because this person is good at their chosen profession of acting if that power isn’t used FOR the people in return? In 2023, stars are accessible, the mirage has broken, and lest he crumble under the weight of their own platform, the movie star will HAVE to, in some way or the other, become a face for a better time, a future we can occupy where strife is eradicated or at the very least minimized enough to allow us to breathe.
Jawan is a release for pent-up frustration. An INCREDIBLEEEE Vijay Sethupathi plays the most nonsensical, no-nonsense villain in recent times, and is the face of the evil staring this country in the face. A businessman so rich and connected, he single-handedly chooses who runs the country. In 2023 the villain does not have a lair like shakal or Mogambo. He does not smuggle gold bricks, he is not an outlaw in a bihad. He is a sophisticated, designer suit-wearing man, you see written about in magazines and newspapers, WHILE his corporations leave no stone unturned in exploiting every loophole his claws can find in the threads of law and order. All while cloaked in the garb of mainstream cinema, all the usual hijinks involved, I swear at one point a man smears eggs on a car’s windshield in the middle of a very high-power chase sequence, and you’re just so caught up in the adrenaline rush of it all, you won’t stop to think ki amid the heavy weaponry, one guy remembered to pack 3 loose eggs in his pocket for this precise moment.
Jawan is anarchist but it isn’t asking for annihilation. As the nation’s capital comes to a standstill for the G20 summit, this film is the full-throated protest happening outside. Karoge participate?