By Arnab Banerjee
Nothing succeeds like success — and who better than the Badshah himself, Shah Rukh Khan, to endorse that adage. Close on the heels of the success of his earlier release this year, ‘Pathan’, King Khan is back with yet another high-octane action thriller outlining the emotional journey of a man who is set to rectify the wrongs in society.
By all standards, his latest, ‘Jawan’, is slightly hurried, though not in the least shoddy in terms of production values, and still manages to be an intoxicating blend of disparate ingredients. But am I complaining? Nah!
Even if there are too many over-the-top action thrills that are unrelenting in terms of their big set pieces, and enough violence go with them, ‘Jawan’ is immensely watchable. And, needless to add, entertaining!
‘Jawan’ has a story that’s neither new, nor very old. It’s what you would expect to watch in a theatre: the sameness of plots underlined by a star who rules. With no such alluring strengths, it has its own merits of a single star dominion that carries on undeterred.
Even if the entire length of the formulaic 169 minutes of hardcore fare is obvious and expectable, some amount of SRK’s charismatic appeal has to be granted to the superstar.
Azad Rathore (Khan) is an officer at a women’s prison who’s determined to clear the name of his soldier father Vikram Rathore (surprise, surprise!). He has to keep a promise made to his mother Aishwarya (Padukone) to become a vigilante and deliver justice to the oppressed.
Azad and his gang of women comprising Lakshmi (Priyamani), Eeram (Sanya Malhotra), Ishkra (Girija Oak), Kalki (Leher Khan) and Helena (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) have a mission to accomplish: to seek justice for the nation’s beleaguered citizens who have been wronged.
They face umpteen challenges from ministers, senior cops and even Azad’s love interest Narmada Rai (Nayanthara). But when they face global weapons dealer-turned-business tycoon Kaali Gaikwad (Vijay Sethupati), they seem to be in trouble.
In the same way as there have been many in the past, ‘Jawan’ is a save-the-world superhero movie with a mission that seems rather too cluttered with subplots.
There’s also plenty to admire about a gonzo action flick like this, and when it gets serious, there’s clear-cut messaging, political at that. And we have SRK pontificating about exercising one’s franchise with caution, and making our leaders accountable.
When elections in our country are just a few months away, that sure is self-serious and an agenda, albeit in an understated subtle manner. Its hefty length is also something that can be tad unexciting. When will filmmakers learn that more is not always better even if the gusto and supreme energetic levels of Khan are a delight to watch?
‘Jawan’ falls in the same category as all other long-winded action films, which have always been huge money spinners, and it’s their massive set pieces, glamorous song-and-dance additions that attract whistles and repeat viewing by a certain percentage of avid movie watchers.
Our film industries, including Hollywood, are stuck in a stale impasse where the dynamic run of blockbusters is a thing of the past and its genre is still a far cry away from its iconic heyday. It’s only, and only, a Shah Rukh Khan who holds sway and draws audiences young and old to theatres killing unwanted criticism from all corners.
Thus, even if ‘Jawan’ is a throwbacks to the 1980s cinema of exaggerated drama, emotions and fight sequences, it still looks refreshing.
And that’s the reason most actioners that come out tops continue to embrace the same old tired aesthetics, recycling a well-trudged formula that may make us demand desperately for new infusions, but it’s the lack of star power at the box office of any of the present-day actors that makes producers and big banners rush to Khan.
Playing two characters here — one slightly old and the other young — Khan shows what he has that few Bollywood stars can boast of: chutzpah combined with magnetism and allure to make him stand out in a melee of wannabe, been-there-done-that, chocolate-faced macho men flaunting their six-packs, and among some great actors and performers too.
One needs to rub it into these so-called stars who also rake it in that either you have it, or you don’t!
And so, SRK rules. Despite all odds, and post-Covid slowdown, the onslaught of streaming platforms eating into the cinema business, and film commerce suffering, if the charm and magic of the Badshah is still commanding tickets on an all-time premium, there is hope. With the promise of the film trade being on the right track!
Vijay Sethupati as the main evil man is made to look menacing and mouths dialogues he seems to be unfamiliar with. He manages well and if he clicks, he could be an addition to the lot of actors doing negative characters.
All the girls have a lot of action to perform and at times, look like a team of supporters who got such a fair deal in SRK’s Shimit Amins hit movie ‘Chake De’.
The film has been shot in places like Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Rajasthan and Aurangabad, where G.K. Vishnu’s camera pans all across sets showing dens and hideouts, jails, and terrains. But since there is enough action and more interaction between characters, it’s the actors’ faces that get highlighted against dark backgrounds.
The film’s soundtrack and background score have been composed by Anirudh Ravichander, and songs, such as ‘Zinda Banda’, ‘Chaleya’, ‘Not Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, ‘Aararaari Raaro’, ‘Jawan Title Track’, ‘Faraatta’ and ‘Chaleya’, with lyrics by Irshad Kamil and Kumaar are needlessly wedged into action scenes and are therefore, all out of place.
It’s only when you see a sexy Padukone gyrating that you sit up and take note of her svelte and sensual presence!
Film: Jawan (Playing in theatres in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu) Duration: 169 minutes
Director: Atlee Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, Deepika Padukone
Cinematography: G. K. Vishnu Music: Anirudh Ravichander