Jawan: The Beating Heart Inside Frivolity Of Mass Movie

Behind the in-your-face massy facade of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jawan, lies the subdued lament for an India lost in the cacophony of fierce social media duels and television primetime outrage over non-issues. Keep all the frivolity of mass cinema it dishes out aside, you find a beating heart at its core. It appeals to the conscience, the noble human faculty that is becoming alarmingly irrelevant in our fraught times. This elevates Jawan to a level few mainstream commercial movies manage to reach and perhaps explains its tremendous success at the box office.

Hounded by loan sharks and vagaries of nature, thousands of debt-ridden farmers kill themselves across the country every year. It’s a tragic reality of the countryside that refuses to disappear. When did you last notice a television debate or viral social media angst or a film on farmer suicides? When hundreds of children afflicted with encephalitis die due to non-availability of oxygen at health centres, good old conscience would erupt in revulsion and anger. In New India it unleashes a vituperative political slugfest instead. People abandon the call of morality to position themselves in conflicting political camps. Jawan revives these topics to take us back in time and prods our conscience to wake up from slumber and react to reality.

It reminds viewers that beyond the gloss, glitter and inanity of New India there exists the dark reality of human suffering that simply cannot be wished away. It involves vast swathes of humanity in all nooks of the country. Although in the true spirit of our mass movies it goes back to the invincible superhero as the ultimate problem-solver, it takes time out to tell people to introspect and act. In an extended monologue, Shah Rukh’s character Azad exhorts people to exercise the power of vote and rise above narrow consideration of caste, religion and community while doing so. The messaging is not preachy and it carries a note of urgency. Obviously, it has struck a chord.

In the true tradition of masala movies, Jawan packages and delivers masculine swag at its exaggerated best. Shah Rukh in both roles gets ample scope to flaunt his muscularity and pulls it off to near perfection in action scenes. While it eschews going overboard like many South Indian films, Jawan borrows heavily from the South in tone and tenor. The latter, particularly director Atlee’s works, is known to be rooted in mass sentiment. Jawan embraces it with no inhibition. The movie also serves a lesson to the Hindi industry which had been witnessing dwindling audience footfalls over the last couple of years. It cannot simply ignore the masses and go on peddling content which the audience find difficult to relate to and root for.

About Shah Rukh Khan, it may turn out to be his most successful film so far, but definitely it is not his best. But the way he reinvents himself to transcend from class to mass in Jawan is brilliant. His transition from lover boy to action hero, which kicked off with Pathaan, goes many notches further with Jawan. We hope he doesn’t get stuck in the mould and the allure of Rs 1000 crore blockbusters doesn’t stop his experimental streak.

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