Neither of us had any idea what we were getting into when we went to the theater to see “Jawan” (with burgers hidden in our jackets — don’t tell the usher!). The trailer we watched was vague, and we’d mainly gone to see superstar SRK bald on the big screen.
“Jawan” blew us away. It is an action movie, a romance movie, a drama and a socio-political film all at once. We felt every single emotion, screamed and laughed and cried and gasped at the plot twists. It is easily one of the best movies of the year.
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan (better known as SRK) stars as Azaad Rathore, the protagonist. Nayanthara (in her Hindi debut) plays Narmada Rai, the chief of Force One, Vijay Sethupathi plays arms dealer Kalee Gaikwad and Deepika Padukone makes a special appearance as Aishwarya. “Jawan” also marks Tamil writer/director Atlee’s Hindi debut.
“Jawan” follows Azaad Rathore, the child of a man whose reputation was slandered by a corrupt weapons trader with deep government influence. Azaad becomes a women’s prison jailer and recruits a group of elite agents from the prison to fix government corruption by committing crimes that draw the attention of the world to the disparities and issues.
The film focuses on government corruption but does not select issues that could only occur in India. Global problems such as mistreatment of farmers, worker abuse, lack of free and efficient healthcare and corruption are highlighted as the film focuses not on disparaging India but directly targets corrupt executives and greedy capitalists. What makes this portrayal of corruption stand out is the optimistic tone it takes, urging people to use what power they have — especially voting — to change the system, which addresses not just Indian citizens but viewers from all countries.
The Bhopal Gas tragedy, a chemical accident that took place in 1984 at the UCIL pesticide facility, is one of the India-specific incidents that the movie mentions. Over 500,000 people in the tiny low-income community-towns surrounding the factory were exposed to the very poisonous chemical methyl isocyanate, making it the worst industrial catastrophe in history. Nearly 2,259 people were killed and another 500,000 were severely injured in the devastating disaster. While it is only briefly on screen, it is horrific enough to make the viewer remember the negligence that greedy corporations can cause.
Including these elements and being almost three hours long, “Jawan” was bound to have a complex plot, but it balances its elements well. Everything that is brought up is essential to the story. The pace is brisk but not neck-breaking, the flashbacks are well-placed and every twist is thrilling — unexpected while making perfect sense. The screenplay, though non-linear, is not convoluted and is executed with fantastic writing that ensures that you understand every bit of the storyline.
Each character stands out, however little screen time they have, in part due to the writing and in part due to each wonderful performance.
Saying that SRK is the king of Indian cinema is nothing new, but both his looks and acting shine in this film. Every scene he’s in brings something special to the film. His chemistry with Nayanthara is electric, though we recognize that SRK could probably have chemistry with anyone (just look at him).
While SRK’s acting stands out mainly due to how often he’s on screen, everyone in this movie is fantastic. Most characters have a tragic backstory, and the actors portray these tragedies heartbreakingly but also bring a lot of charisma and humor to the lighter moments.
The movie features some of the year’s best VFX and CGI. Marvel needs to take some notes from Red Chillies VFX. Nearly every shot in the movie has some VFX or CGI, and all of it is absolutely spectacular. What makes it stand out even more is that you probably won’t even notice it — that’s how real it looks.
The cinematography is stunning with every shot, looking like it was planned with careful detailing. It is not only visually striking but also highlights some very important moments in the film, acting both as brilliant symbolism and great foreshadowing.
The fight sequences are unreal, with both the physical combat and the prop usage standing out for its innovative stunt choreography. The editing matches the fast-paced narrative — never leaving you behind, lingering where it needs to but also keeping you hooked throughout. The quick narrative and editing ensure that you don’t feel the nearly three-hour run time.
Beyond the visuals, the film brings some hit songs in a soundtrack composed by Anirudh Ravichander that capture the emotion of their scenes and will stay in your head when you leave. “Aararaari Raaro,” sung by a mother to her son, stands out for the beautiful choral part in the background and gorgeous voice of the soloist.
It also features what is possibly the best score ever for an action film — constantly keeping you at the edge of your seat during plot twists, pumping you up for the action sequences and nearly making you cry during the emotional moments. The theme songs for the main characters shine brightly in an already fantastic soundtrack, fitting together like puzzle pieces during one of the most important scenes in the film.
Our main criticism is that — especially given the plot twists and discoveries characters make — the main couple has very little screen time or romance together in the second half. While it makes sense given that the second half focuses on the relationship between Azaad and his father and not the romance, a few more scenes with them would have resolved a lot of the tension present at the beginning and would have made for a more satisfying ending character-wise.
The dance break during the credits does partially make up for this though!
From the beginning to the end credits — “Jawan” is simply incredible. Other movies walked so “Jawan” could run. See it while it’s in theaters (Jordan Creek was where we saw it, but it is also playing in Johnston) for an incredibly memorable experience, or watch it with friends and gasp at every plot twist.