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Jai Jawan Jai Kisan! Jai Shah Rukh Khan, jai Atlee? – Beyond Bollywood

The super star and his star director rally behind India’s Armed Forces, farmers, labor, the humble class, but they fail to cultivate a taut screenplay. Nayanthara impresses in her maiden Hindi film. The female lot hold their own. It’s the male cast that disappoints.

Rating: ⭐️? (1.5 / 5)

Jawan [2023]

By Mayur Lookhar

Pathaan [2023] showed how brand Shah Rukh Khan has moved from being the ‘king of hearts’ to ‘king of guns’.  Recently, we came across a SRK quote where the super star stated that his young son AbRam loves anime and action films.  Well, if that is the inspiration behind a Pathaan, then Khan is playing a doting father. However, is AbRam’s favourite, also the nation’s favourite?

Pathaan [2023] smashed records but was it any great piece of cinema? That is still up for debate. Seven months later, King Khan is riding on the patriotic wave again with Jawan – a maiden Hindi directorial by popular South filmmaker Atlee.  It’s a maiden collaboration between Khan and Atlee.

With a name like Jawan, it is natural for the film to talk about Armed Forces. There is a jawan [soldier] here but the present day story involves a jailor Azad Rathore [Shah Rukh Khan]. Azad was born in Mumbai’s Belwada (fictitious) women’s jail and raised by his godmother Kaveri amma [Riddhi Dogra], Though a jail, Azad has secretly turned this government property into his private, vigilante force with him being the only man in the group. That sounds like former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Phew! Our hero is no Gaddafi. He aspires to be a messiah, Robinhood for the poor, needy of Bharat. The actions of Azad, and his gang of girls, can be debated but the motive merits attention. Writer-director Atlee has a story that is seeped into the ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ culture. It respects our labor force too.  In a nutshell, Atlee’s film condemns corruption in social, political, financial system that widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

At the onset, Atlee takes you to India’s North Eastern borders lulling you into believing that Jawan will perhaps take on The Red Dragon. 30 years later, it is revealed that the battle here is purely internal. Kali Gaikwad [Vijay Sethupathi] is the evil in this kaliyug of Atlee. Kali is the world’s fourth largest arms dealer, and the de facto ruler of Maharashtra, where every neta (politician] fears him. Amidst this gloomy environment, Azad and his gang of girls decide to take on the mighty Kali.

Jawan earns respect for its concept, but the messy screenplay, shoddy direction fails to do justice to the cause.  Things seem fine for the first 20 odd minutes, but then the screenplay takes a nosedive.  Jawan is inclusive but the poor quality of its screenplay is a big letdown. The Bollywood film pans out into an unintentional comedy for most of its 170 minutes duration. The last 30 minutes, the climax plays out like a joke.

Shah Rukh Khan’s super stardom is indisputable. This reviewer, too, was once a big fan, however, Shah Rukh Khan, the actor has become invisible in the last decade or so. The SRK of Swades [2004], Paheli [2005], Chak De! India [2007], is a distant memory.  The body has its limitations. SRK, however, has defied it by carving a chiseled frame. But in the process, the actor Khan has gone missing. Though we see him in different shades, but Khan delivers another ham fest. He looks constipated in some of his dialogue delivery.

Technology, modern science helps in certain de-aging, but how could Khan play (adopted) son to Rddhi Dogra, who is nearly 20 years younger.  Last year, we had Mona Singh play mother to Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha. Singh, however, played mother to a young Laal [played by a child artiste].

Khan created magic when surrounded by women in Chak De! India, but here in Jawan, it smacks of vanity, fanfare. Sanya Malhotra, Riddhi Dogra, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya have all admitted to being SRK fans.  Though these ladies do a fine job, but the fanatism is evident in the screenplay. 

Vijay Sethupathi

Khan is way off the mark but the real disappointment here is Vijay Sethupathi. Jeez, seldom do we say this of the acclaimed actor. He’s fine to begin with it, but the tacky screenplay perhaps demotivated Sethupathi, who clearly is a shadow of himself. Kali Gaikwad, the name is fine but the Tamil accent is unusual for a Gaikwad. Hang on, the biggest super star of Tamil Nadu is a Shivaji Rao Gaikwad who migrated from Maharashtra to the Southern State.  It’s not the Tamil accent, but Sethupathi lacks the requisite fear factor.  Interestingly, the main antagonist is disappointing, but Eijaz Khan, who plays Kali’s brother Manish, is truly intimidating in the allocated screen time.  Now that is a bane when you are surrounded in a film with two super stars – Khan and Sethupathi.


Despite their limited screentime, Sanya Malhotra, Bhattacharya, Girija Oak, Priyamani do a fair job. There was no such constrain with Nayanthara who shines in her Bollywood debut. The South Indian actress impresses with her style, tone and body language. This despite her underbaked character.  Nayanthara isn’t weighed down by the frailties in the script and delivers a confident show.

Seeza Saroj Mehta

The one actor who is head and shoulders above everyone is little child artiste Seeza Saroj Mehta. In a cute, refreshing moment, little Suji [Mehta] turns up at the Belwada jail to check on her mother’s prospective groom, Azad. The little munchkin is loaded with cuteness and confidence personified. Seeza surely seizes the moment.

While Jawan pays tribute to India’s Armed Forces, a certain sub-plot is likely to raise brows in defense circles. One cannot deny that in the past our jawans weren’t always adequately armed – courtesy shortsighted government. The misfiring guns in Jawan though will not amuse the Indian Army.   

For a film that slams bureaucracy, corrupt politics, unfriendly social, economic policies, director Atlee should have been cautious in not sexyfying on screen smoking. Hey, if you talk of public health system or condemn banks for higher interests on tractors than corporate loans, then you ought to condemn the economy of hazardous product consumption too.

Jawan is technically sound with fine cinematography, BGM and sound design. Anirudh’s playback music though is disastrous. Atlee is fine in his intent, but the execution, writing, direction is below acceptable cinematic standards.  We will forever say Jai Jawan Jai Kisan. But only those blinded by fanfare, greed, or only AbRam will hail Atlee and Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan.

Watch the video review below.

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