SRK magic in North-South alchemy : The Tribune India

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SRK magic in North-South alchemy

SRK magic in North-South alchemy

What makes Shah Rukh Khan’s presence refreshing is that you see many new shades of him in ‘Jawan’, and he delights in most.

Film: Jawan

Director: Atlee

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, Deepika Padukone, Priyamani, Sanya Malhotra, Sunil Grover, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Girija Oak and Lehar Khan

Nonika Singh

Social vigilantism is not a new subject in Bollywood. Nor is mixing it with a personal vendetta angle. Corruption in political circles, farmers’ suicides, crumbling health infrastructure; come to think of it, on the surface little that the script explores is groundbreaking. Dig deep, and the good old formula has been rejigged in what is intrinsically an entertainer. What makes Atlee’s ‘Jawan’ different is how it breaks the formula within the formulaic.

Shah Rukh Khan’s king-size charm is eternal, only here he is not just essaying yet another romantic part. Seen in a double role, his swag is very much intact. But what makes his presence refreshing is that you see many new shades of him and he delights in most.

In the opening sequence, he appears in a mummified form somewhere on the border of India. A scintillating action sequence follows; SRK is revealed to us in an equally dazzling fashion. Who exactly is he?

The scene moves to 30 years after and here he is bald with a greying moustache, holding the train and passengers to ransom. Is he the same man? Writer-director Atlee, the phenomenal director of South with an impeccable track record at the box office, keeps us guessing at more than one point. A few more ‘noble’ acts of vigilantism and Vikram Rathore (SRK) becomes a hero. But can the Badshah of romance ever let his female fans down! The romantic angle once again plays up the sensitive and progressive man that he is. Besides, his core team of self-styled crusaders comprises women and women alone. Here, we are introduced to ‘The Family Man’ actress Priyamani (Lakshmi) and then there is Sanya Malhotra (Dr Eeram) and a host of others. Kudos to women power… only, all of them have a limited impact. Nayanthara (Narmada) as the investigating officer looks lovely and makes an impressive entry as the tough negotiator. Besides, her character arc of a single, unwed mother has that contemporary angle. But in the overall scheme of things, she loses to SRK’s towering presence and deserved a more solid Hindi film debut.

Expectedly, in an SRK vehicle, that too with a double role, the other actors won’t get much to do. Talented actor Sunil Grover (Irani) is wasted and the twist around his character is unwarranted. The only exception perhaps is antagonist Vijay Sethupathi (Kaalie Gaikwad). After impressing North Indian cinegoers in web-series ‘Farzi’, he has a meaty role and does reasonable justice to it as he brings controlled menace to villainy. Is there a veiled analogy to his character sketch with climate change as a subtext? We leave it to your imagination.

Amidst drama, tears and action, coupled with political posturing, the film cruises to the interval, fast-paced and brisk. Hereafter, a few more surprises, some delightful, some regular, are in store. A back story involving Deepika Padukone as Aishwarya has all your attention. She dazzles and brings emotional heft in a stirring cameo. Spread over two hours and 50 minutes, the length does rob the film of its delight quotient and when Sethupathi says, ‘Khatam karo yaar, nahi toh yeh phir music chala denge’, it sure is a dig we don’t miss. Music except for ‘Chaleya’ certainly isn’t the highlight of the film. At many levels, ‘Jawan’ is a tribute to Indian cinema, SRK’s charisma and his films of yore and of entertainment around the world.

If the bonhomie and bonding with the all-women team reminds you of ‘Chak De’, their getup inspired by ‘Money Heist’ and the jail, the epicenter of much action, seems to be fashioned after ‘Squid Game’. His direct speech on why we need to question the electoral system before casting our vote is reminiscent of the power of people in ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’. Of course, close to the elections, given the political climate, many can draw inferences. And when we hear the line ‘Bande mein hai dum’, we know the original context and can sense this tipping the hat to Sanjay Dutt. Dutt appears in the final scene and post-credit rushes too and adds to the cheer.

Though the film leaves you with a feeling that it could have been crisper and better edited, SRK’s magic and Atlee’s ingenious direction make this North-South alchemy worth the while.