White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time


Hindi Movie Review: Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan lives up to the massive hype

Shah Rukh Kahn stars in the Hindi movie "Jawan," directed by Atlee, here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

This past January, Shah Rukh Khan returned to his first leading role following a four-year hiatus in Pathaan, which quickly became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all-time in India (not to mention a long list of international markets where the bar was lower). Less than nine months later, it looks like he’ll set that same record all over again with Jawan, which as of this writing has already claimed the title for top Hindi film opening day. Of course, these things can change quickly based on audience word-of-mouth, but I wouldn’t expect a slowdown any time soon for Jawan, as it delivers basically everything one could want from a mass appeal blockbuster. Like Pathaan, the movie boasts magnetic performances from both Khan and his costars, solid action set-pieces backed by well-earned stakes and suspense, surprising twists, and substantive but not patronizing social commentary. In other words, it’s the whole package.

Jawan’s very contemporary riff on a classic Robin Hood story makes it perhaps the biggest international blockbuster to date to tackle the global push towards social and economic populism. Khan plays the jailer Azad, who runs a women’s prison acclaimed for its rehabilitation programs. But that’s just his public-facing day job. Behind the walls of the prison – and beyond them – he also leads a covert team of six of the inmates imposing vigilante political justice in India. Early in the film, they hijack a Mumbai Metro train to extort the cash needed to pay down a slew of predatory government loans that were forced on farmers and other working-class people. In a subsequent mission, they shoot a corrupt Health Minister and rush him in for treatment at one of the government hospitals that his department deprives of proper resources. When the facility predictably doesn’t have the right surgeon or equipment, Azad demands that all government hospitals be supplied the proper inventory within five hours, before the patient can be saved.

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