Shahrukh Khan and Atlee’s latest film, Jawan, is surprisingly politically direct beneath its veneer of vigilante action. Both critics and audiences have praised the film, and to be frank, the accolades are well-deserved.
In the 70s and 80s, Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Angry Young Man’ served as a release for the pent-up frustrations of the youth in an unstable economy. Similarly, Shahrukh Khan’s new protagonist lends a voice to today’s liberal youth, who often feel stifled in a democracy slipping through their grasp.
Khan’s heroes are deliberately depicted as being ambiguous in terms of religion and parentage, a poignant choice in a time when some influential voices manipulate religion and ancestry to justify unwarranted control over the public.
Jawan conveys multiple messages, at times perhaps too many, but the proficient cast and crew sell the story and the star to you. Critiquing Khan’s acting would be a fruitless endeavor, as he seamlessly embodies every character he portrays. One might argue that Khan has been in mediocre films, but none of those films were mediocre because of him.
Likewise, Vijay Sethupathi brings Kaalie Gaikwaid to life with a nonchalance only the truly talented can achieve. While Khan’s charisma simmers beneath layers of action, Sethupathi’s expressive eyes effectively convey the fear his character demands.
Jawan delivers on its promises, from Anirudh’s masterful music, Atlee’s skill as an action director, to G.K. Vishnu’s cinematography and Nayanthara’s seasoned screen presence.
In an era dominated by remakes, Atlee doesn’t shy away from referencing and drawing inspiration in Jawan. In fact, one could compile a list of scenes and moments that feel like familiar territory. However, Atlee adeptly executes these tropes, allowing the audience to root for the characters instead of being put off by a retelling.
Nonetheless, Jawan is not without its flaws. Despite a substantial female cast, only a few characters truly emerge as individuals, most serving primarily to support the lead character. Many characters’ backstories are left unexplored, and Nayanthara’s formidable cop Narmada loses her bravado and strength in the final showdown. Chak De India serves as a superior example of a film where each female character is given their due, alongside the main character.
Despite these shortcomings, Jawan stands as a robust film due to its sincerity, entertainment value, mass appeal, and its ability to present a Shahrukh Khan we’ve never seen before.
Written by Sreejeeta Ghosh