NOW IN THEATERS! I walked into co-writer/director Atlee’s action thriller, Jawan, knowing nothing besides the fact it had recently set the opening day box office record in India. There’s a lot for us Americans to take away by the end. 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 carnage, the team’s guns seized up, rendering 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.
Jawan’s wife, Aishwarya (Deepika Padukone), is tried and found guilty of treason. Just seconds before her execution, prison officials discover she is pregnant and stay her executive until her son is five. During those years, the women in Aishwarya’s prison help raise her son and, after her execution, 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 now on Vikram’s trail.
“…Vikram hijacks a train with his crew of six sexy lady operatives.”
Jawan is a spectacular action thriller coming out of India. It’s all action, intrigue, and dancing. Yes, there are four Bollywood numbers sprinkled throughout. It’s not quite the epic we fell in love with regarding RRR, but it’s a slick action film of the kind that used to come out in the 1980s and 90s, ala Simpson/Bruckheimer.
Fun is what we’re looking for here. Elaborate action set pieces with an overuse of framerate manipulation. When a sequence slows down, that moment becomes a comic book frame. Comic book fans and cinephiles alike will appreciate that such detail is given to the composition of those shots, even if it’s used too often.
Jawan is a reminder to me of what action films used to be. Men are men, and women are women. They come together under the common goal to kick serious a*s. In other words, this 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,” which just may exclude a 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.
Remember when action films were fun? Admittedly, the Bollywood dance numbers will either amuse you or give you a few minutes to get some popcorn. But the action setpieces are so enjoyable the dancing is a blip. Get yourself into the theaters, exercise those subtitle muscles, and be entertained by the intense and wild ride that is Jawan.
"…remember when action films were fun?"