NOW IN THEATERS! I walked into Atlee’s action thriller, Jawan, knowing nothing, primarily because Jawan recently set the opening day box office record in India. There’s a lot for us Americans to walk away with here. Let’s get into it.
Jawan is the story of maligned Indian military hero Vikram Rathore (Shah Rukh Khan). Thirty years ago, Vikram and his special forces team went into enemy territory to rescue the survivors of a harsh battle. Amid the battle, the team’s guns seized up on them, rendering them useless and our heroes defenseless. Now unarmed, Vikram was able to save only five of his men.
Lauded as a hero during a medal ceremony, Vikram calls out the gun manufacturer that endangered their lives. This public humiliation exposed government corruption, and mob boss Kaalie (Vijay Sethupathi) sent his goons and corrupt military moles to murder Vikram.
Then convicts his wife, Aishwarya (Deepika Padukone), of treason. Just seconds before her execution, prison officials discover she is pregnant and stay her executive until her son Arad is five. During those five years, the women in Aishwarya’s prison help raise her son after her execution and continue to do so until Arad becomes the prison warden.
Jump to the present day, and a man posing as Vikram hijacks a train with his crew of six sexy lady operatives. Holding over 300 hostages, Vikram is able to get the government to transfer money and pay off the loans of thousands of farmers exploited by the system. Vikram then stirs up more trouble, exposing corruption and becoming the Robin Hood of India. The rugged, resourceful, and very hot Narmada (Nayanthara) is on Vikram’s trail.
“…Vikram hijacks a train with his crew of six sexy lady operatives.”
The film’s final twist is Arad, the prison warden, secretly posing as his father Vikram, and his sexy lady crew are select prisoners with unique skills and genuine beef with the government. And in the final twist, Narmada’s daughter desperately tries to set up her mother with Arad.
Jawan is a spectacular action thriller coming out of India. It’s all action, intrigue, and dancing. Yes, there are four Bollywood dance numbers sprinkled throughout. It’s not quite the epic we fell in love with regarding RRR, but it’s a slick action film that used to come out in the 80s and 90s, ala Simpson/Bruckheimer.
Fun is what we’re looking for here. Elaborate action set pieces with an overuse of framerate manipulation. Though I finally figured it out, When an action sequence slows down, that moment becomes a comic book frame. Such detail is given to the composition of those shots that comic book fans will appreciate this effect…even if it’s used too often.
Jawan is a reminder to me of what action films used to be. Men are men. Women are women…and they come together under the common goal to kick serious a*s. In other words, Jawan and all foreign films, for that matter, are not hung up on U.S. cultural politics (AKA being woke). There’s not a single box being checked. Dudes with muscles. Women with curves. A cavalcade of exploding body parts. No hidden agendas or virtue signals in the background. Non-binaries will definitely not be “seen” in Jawan…thus excluding this massive audience.
There is a political message in the end. No spoiler, but it’s essentially think for yourself. The moment surrounds an election, and Vikram pleads with the nation to study each candidate and make an informed decision—a very American message from a non-American movie.
Look, the Bollywood dance numbers will either be fun for you or a few minutes reserved to get some popcorn. I’m not even going to attempt to convince you it’s fun to watch.
Remember when action films were fun? Get yourself into the theaters, exercise those subtitle muscles, and enjoy an intense and wild ride with Jawan.