‘Jawan’ Works As A Palliative For the Masses
A Pandora’s box of adventure, entertainment
Shah Rukh Khan has never been a top favourite for me. But, I do not deny that he has it in him to step out of his overly stylised acting and walk into truly challenging roles without giving up on the hypnotic impact he makes on his audiences right across the globe.
‘Jawan’ may challenge all your logical thinking, but the film may be counted as one of his stellar performances where he is full-fledged Shah Rukh Khan and yet, not ‘Shah Rukh Khan’.
The three films that brought out the best in SRK that will remain carved in my memory are: ‘Swadesh’, ‘Chak De India’ and, ‘My Name Is Khan’. The respective directors, namely, Hemant Gowarikar, Shimit Amin and Karan Johar, each distinctively different in their approach, should be credited for bringing the best out of this versatile and talented actor
They steered him away from his cliché performances of his hit films within his ‘Rahul’ persona with and without an attractive stutter. ‘Swadesh’ and ‘Chak De India’ did not elevate up his ranking as one of the best actors that came out of Bollywood over the past 25 years. As, neither of these films was a box office hit.
Before these three films and after these, he kept himself forever trapped in the box of his stylised acting, song-dance numbers, typical facial expression that is a satiric smile with eyebrows raised in question. All this comes flashing right back when we see him in two personas, never mind the face half-wreathed in bandage.
The camera often cuts into a huge close-up of one eye, or, Vikram Rathore, the senior SRK, suddenly pulls out the bandage. The wonderfully made-up scalp, which must but must fetch the make-up artist’s command over prosthetics without which, ‘Jawan’ would not have been the Pandora’s Box it has turned out to be.
The make-up artist should rightly get the National Award for this film. Without his masterful skill, ‘Jawan’ would not have turned out to be the brash and open entertainer for the mass audience, never mind that it has modern-day miracles.
One is the incredible ‘reality’ of every public hospital in the country getting fully equipped with beds, machines, oxygen cylinders, etc within the record-breaking time-span of five hours! And all of this he actually makes happen thanks to the scare he gives to the health ministry.
He also creates a situation where the health minister is shot while delivering a pre-election address, just after he declares that if he is shot, he should mandatorily be taken to a public hospital and not to a private hospital!
Another modern-day miracle is when, soon after the film opens, Vikram Rathore holds an entire metro train to ransom by demanding the agriculture minister, (by kidnapping the daughter Aliya of the villain Kali), pay back the loans to lakhs of farmers within a few minutes through a mobile exchange and all this actually happens!
How? Do these farmers own smartphones? Do they have bank accounts to get the money transferred? But you have forgotten your brains at home, remember? So, these questions sound stupid in the face of such an amazing attack on the health ministry.
The wonder is that you just cannot take your eyes off the screen even for a second for the entire 170 minutes of the film’s screening time. Let us add that Kali’s innocent daughter Aliya disappears from the film entirely after that scene inside the moving train where Vikram tells her of her evil father.
This is the first time we discover SRK playing father and son in the same film where the age difference hardly shows. Sometimes, the senior Vikram Rathore is either with a shaved head or with half the face masked with bandages.
But perhaps, scared of the response of the masses, the bandage and the bald pate come off showing off a slightly aged SRK looking great as usual. The younger version, for most part, is SRK looking at least 15 years younger than his real age of 57.
This is matched ideally with a youthful performance which strikes out tellingly twice. The first is when he converses with the little girl, daughter of the IPS officer Narmada (Nayanthara) who comes to see the man who is expected to marry her single mother. The second is when he faces his father who learns of their relationship but cannot remember him, and so he does not feel any emotion of being a father. The pain in the son Azad’s face is something to carry home with you.
This is perhaps for the first time one gets the chance to watch SRK in all his cinematic and visual glory. We see a head-shaven Vikram, or with a scraggly beard, or with his hair standing out around his head.
The younger SRK is seen in a police uniform, with a moustache, without it, with his head of hair shaking this way and that, dancing away to glory with the 6,000 inmates of the women’s prison. The prison itself was once a heritage mansion and is almost as clean and as well-equipped as a well-looked-after guest-house, sorry, mansion.
These prisoners, led by six extremely attractive young women form the hidden “army” of Vikram and then, of both father and son. The huge prison does not seem to have a warden but a lady officer/jailor who adopts the little Azad when his father (Vikram) is jailed and his mother (Deepika Padukone) is hanged for being traitors. Kaveri Amma could be taken as SRK’s personal tribute to the actress who played Kaveri Amma in ‘Swadesh’ who passed away some time ago.
Deepika Padukone does not quite have a ‘guest’ role but a full-fledged one as the senior SRK’s beautiful wife whose death sentence is postponed just before the noose is about to be hooked around her neck. Did she not undergo the unusual medical exams prisoners of the death sentence have mandatorily need to go through?
She even has the pregnancy rituals in prison, organised by the inmates who seem quite happy being behind bars. This gives the director Atlee a chance to put in a colourful song. Padukone is brilliant and matches every romantic scene perfectly with SRK as her loving husband who does not even get to know that he has become a father.
The other song-dance sequence with the younger SRK engaged in a very loud number along with his six young women from the prison who work with him, has a great change in colourful costumes taking us back to the old SRK.
Sethupathi is cold-blooded, brutal, cruel and bent on racing from being the fourth biggest dealer of arms across the world to becoming the first. He is very good, though mostly captured in huge close-ups with a double-sized bodyguard safeguarding him round the clock.
According to me, though I enjoyed the film purely as ‘entertainment’ expanded several times over, I cringed every moment with the terrible violence graphically visualised. The loud sound effects, and blood oozing out, reminded me of horror films which I keep myself distanced from.
I have not seen so much blood and gore and violent killing in any film in recent times except in some OTT films that thrive only through violence. This includes SRK top hits too. But the masses love it and there were ‘ceetees’ from the elite theatre audience the minute the “real” screen image of SRK shows.
The quick-cut-and-switch from one phase to another or from one cut to the next is quite confusing. For example, Azaad being thrown off the plane by Kali and his goons is next seen on a hospital bed, trying to stay alive.
Some scenes remind you of other similar scenes from past films but the prized cake when the hero speaks live on television has a clear reference to the speech Amitabh makes after his death in ‘Main Azaad Hoon’ emphasising the word “Azaad” as he addresses the television and mobile audience.
The box office coffers and the records the film is breaking within the week of its release have proved me wrong. ‘Jawan’ is not even a film. It's just “entertainment” , never mind how you define or understand the word.
The mass audience, burdened under huge debts, massive corruption in employment, constant rise in the price of essential goods, steep rise in cost of living pitted against low consumption of essential goods remains more interested in brawn than in brain. ‘Jawan’ functions as a pain-killing palliative for them and a money-making machine for Red Chillies Entertainment, SRK and the producer Gauri Khan.