Thirty minutes into Jawan, you realise that it is purely a Tamil film with a Bollywood icon at its core – and not a Bollywood film featuring many south Indian talents. This is especially validated during the climax, where SRK's character, a self-appointed Robin Hood, delivers a strong socially-charged message to the audience.
That is one of the most common plot lines in Kollywood. We have seen variations of this, with the audience thronging to the theatres, pouring their frustrations over the bureaucratic red tapism.
For the Hindi film-watching audience, though, this is nothing like what they have seen more recently.
Set in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, the story of Jawan revolves around a vigilante, Azad (played by Shah Rukh Khan), who assembles a team of six skilled women – Lakshmi (Priyamani), Eeram (Sanya Malhotra), Ishkra (Girija Oak), Kalki (Lehar Khan), Helena (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) and Janhvi (Aaliyah Qureishi) – to extract justice on behalf of people from marginalised backgrounds.
What follows is a high-stakes cat-and-mouse chase, involving Azad, his team, Narmada Rai (played by Nayanthara), and the villain Kali Gaikwad (played by Vijay Sethupathi). What follows is also a telling commentary of how elected leaders and big corporates let down average citizens of the country.
Bollywood Finally Watches a Tamil Film & How!
Atlee’s Jawan has it all: From poverty-stricken farmers who are forced to take their lives, young children dying due to a shortage of oxygen cylinders, to fumbling ministers and a money-laundering corporate billionaire who funds the government.
This may seem like a lot of issues for just one film to address. But it works, and how!
Corruption, greed, and decadence form the backdrop of Jawan, which goes from being a vigilante justice to personal revenge in fairly unsubtle ways.
SRK's Azad shows people the 'power of your index finger', signifying their vote. He asks you to ask questions to the government. He asks you to think before you cast your vote.
"When they ask for your vote, ask what they will do for you for the next five years," says Azad, as audience in the theatre break into a thunderous applause.
Jawan isn’t a film that makes you introspect, but it does make a point in the simplest of ways — thanks to the clever writing.
Atlee’s Screenplay: New Bottle, Old Wine But Paisa Vasool
A good thing about Atlee’s Jawan is it’s literally paisa vasool. I paid around 600 rupees in Delhi to watch one film. I came out having watched a mash-up of multiple Tamil films, including a recap of some of Atlee’s own filmography.
“I would like to thank my Anna (Thalapathy Vijay) for making this happen. It is because of his motivation that I moved out of my comfort zone and made Jawan,” Atlee had said during the audio launch of the film in Chennai late last month.
It is no doubt that Atlee is a big Vijay fan having delivered three back-to-back blockbuster hits with the actor—Theri (2016), Mersal (2017) and Bigil (2019).
But his craze shows in Jawan too, because SRK seems to have acted in a template Vijay film with all the action and political messaging. Throughout the film, the screenplay got me to thinking a lot about Mersal, Sarkar (2018), Kaththi (2014) — all Vijay starrer and Ajit starrer Arambam (2013).
While all these films dealt with a particular issue — farmer suicides, corruption in the healthcare system etc, Jawan deals with them all.
Jawan has all-too-familiar tropes—a father-son relationship drama, tragic death to at least one heroine, flashbacks with high emotional quotients involving women.
Lady superstar Nayanthara's character, though powerful, is reduced to someone who ends up marrying SRK for the sake of her daughter. She also implies that 'only a father can provide children with a genuine sense of protection,' despite being a cop capable of fighting multiple men herself.
Having said that, Atlee’s Jawan still works, all thanks to his stoic direction. The 36-year-old has a way of executing his simple writing flawlessly by elevating the hero into a demi-god figure, again another concept which is favoured by the audience.
So when Shah Rukh almost bursts through the skies in dirt bandages on his body, when he walks in slow-motion, when he engages in a high-action sequence, you applaud and cheer for it rather than cringe at it thinking of how illogical the writing is. That’s what pure mass-masala entertainers of Atlee do for you.
Not to mention, Atlee heavily relies on inspiration from director Shankar, under whom he began his career with as an assistant director in Rajinikanth-starrer Enthiran in 2010. So, naturally, the film is larger-than-life, with big and colourful sets, filled with romance, family sentiments and has over five songs (some of which are absolutely unnecessary!)
The effective use of slo-mos and background music and the well-crafted action set-pieces all enhance the experience of Jawan. Atlee also has a knack of dialling up the melodrama so often with scenes that sometimes it even makes you want to tear up, and at other times, cringe.
The film is completely lifted due to the performances by not just SRK, but also Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, and the stellar team of six women. To add to it, the film's cinematography by GK Vishnu, along with Anirudh Ravichander's background score, makes it worth your money.
Atlee’s films work because he knows that he isn’t an original director and doesn’t pretend to be one either. His approach is purely commercial-driven and star-centric – like he did in Jawan. He is one of the few contemporary mass movie directors who keeps the joy of watching a superstar on screen alive and fun.
With a perfect balance of action, drama, comedy and emotional scenes, Jawan too leaves you satisfied, yet wanting for more – whether it is old wine in a new bottle or not.