A revenge saga driven by personal and professional motives with each side further infuriated because their loved ones are dragged into the fire is a common trope. But Atlee's Jawan isn't just another addition to the roster because it calls for mass appeal even before people enter a theatre.
With names like Shah Rukh Khan, Nayanthara, Deepika Padukone, Vijay Sethupathi, and Atlee's own attached to the project, expectations are high.
For the most part, the film justifies the appeal – it embodies the very essence of massy, pan-Indian cinema.
Hereon, the film attempts to touch upon several timely social issues– from farmer suicide and income disparity to the dangers of a crumbling health infrastructure. While the film's heart is set firmly in the right place, its usage of exposition is often unsettling.
This exposition is one of the reasons the film can come across as preachy instead of being an astute commentary about corruption and how power imbalances across societal structures affect every citizen.
Some of the scenes are bogged down by this, making them seem almost artificial in their setting. This also affects some of the more emotional scenes – the film asks you to cry with such conviction and you feel more pressured than emotive.
An often-masked Rathore is introduced to the audience and the people in the film as a messiah for the underrepresented and underprivileged. He's a modern-day Robin Hood. Due to this cat-and-mouse chase with those in power, the film's first half remains entertaining.
Rathore's team of six women all have backstories of their own (we only get to see some), each propelling one of the causes the team is rallying for or against. There is, however, the issue of them getting lost in the storytelling as it continues to focus on the main man. When stakes get higher, the team is left in the sidelines for the hero to save the day.
The film attempts to critique the prison industrial complex in a sensitive, if not extensively researched, way. This adds a layer to Shah Rukh's character that merges seamlessly with his backstory. Deepika Padukone's cameo, though short, adds a breath of fresh air to the film's otherwise bleak atmosphere.
If you're wondering, the nation's King Khan doesn't get lost in this medley of causes and characters – he gets to explore his entire skill set in Jawan. From his work in films like Baazigar and Darr to the numerous romantic films he's given over the years, there's a touch of every version of SRK.
As someone who loved watching the actor as a villain, the film's first half is a visual treat.
Speaking of villains, Vijay Sethupathi is every bit as watchable as the film's lead. Sporting a salt and pepper full beard, the actor milks every second of his screen time to create a truly reprehensible villain. On the flip side, the writing of his character lacks the complexities of what makes a truly great villain.
A lot of Jawan walks the line of the new vs the old. This is two-fold. One angle is that the film uses a lot of preexisting tropes to tell its story but attempts to experiment with the way we view 'heroes and heroines' in massy films.
This is combined with references to films like Lion King, Baahubali, Khal Nayak, and The Matrix. The references aren't very subtle (remember the exposition?) but some were enough to coax out hoots from the audience.
The second is more direct and, in a way, more enjoyable. When an older and younger generation fight together, united in their end goal, they are delightfully divided in their methods. From wired earphones vs wireless ones to using machine guns vs eggs on a windshield, a rather enjoyable action sequence is built.
Atlee's Jawan loses some of its steam in the second half when everything starts to seem a little predictable. The lack of strong dialogue writing also starts to make its presence felt. The respite comes from the cast's able performances and the well-crafted action sequences.
Jawan's appeal does rest firmly on its cast. Each entry leads to hoots and whistles.
A scene involving a knife-wielding Nayanthara fighting equally matched opponents is one of my favourites. Action directors Spiro Razatos, Anl Arasu, Craig Macrae, Yannick Ben, Kecha Khampakdee, and Sunil Rodriguez do a commendable job in keeping the high-octane sequences innovative.
The camerawork by GK Vishnu leaves no stone unturned in trying to make you buy into the things you're seeing on the screen. Like a lot of action films, Jawan also expects you to suspend some disbelief; forget some basics of physics while you're at it. But the camerawork keeps your attention focused on the action and the larger-than-life stars.
As long as you stay firmly focused on the bigger picture, the other inconsistencies become blurrier. But it is my responsibility to tell you that they do exist.
While the songs don't give you much to write home about and often seem to be there just because they're a staple of a massy Bollywood film, the background score and the title track stand out.
Jawan is a vehicle for an action superstar and Shah Rukh and Nayanthara both carry that tag well. With a tighter script and more effective dialogues, Atlee's venture could've been a film for the ages. Alas.
Regardless, with Jailer and Jawan releasing so close to each other, it's safe to say that the fans of massy entertainers are being well-fed.