Jawan poster


Atlee is good at conjuring rousing, mass-y visuals, but there’s not much application going into the emotional beats that underline them. He knows how to celebrate the star, and puts up one damn entertaining show for it. But constructing a story around it is where I believe he’s too satisfied with the bare minimum. Not denying that this style hasn’t worked for him, but how long can this go on? It’s also one thing to cover various political issues, but another to treat them like gruseome photocards that are meant to evoke rapid-fire sympathy. Films can do that, obviously, but in here it feels too manufactured to feel for. Or is it just that social media and the increased reportage of tragic social political issues has made some of us numb to superficial fictionalised recreations? Both could be true, but there’s no denying that the effect is cheapened to those who can’t separate a film from its formula.

The flashback in this film is so perfunctory – watch how Deepika and SRK from the past are barely established as characters and we are thrown straight into a dance number to celebrate their love. Are we here to watch a story unfold or are we here for potential templates for reels? Where’s the buildup to the celebration of their love? This is a problem with all the characters and their dynamics. We get highlights, and not one moment that’s truly “felt”. It’s even more frustrating because he’s somewhat gotten this structure right before, with Mersal. The one emotional beat I respect in this screenplay involves a cop who’s shown to grow up to fulfill a promise he made as a kid. But even this detail, is a tad on-the-nose, the kid spells the whole arc out as a dialogue to someone – it would have been nice to leave it to us to piece the beat together.

Very little has gone into the writing of the villain as well. Vijay Sethupathi as the uninhibited baddie might be getting repetitive, but viewing this in isolation, his personality clearly adds so much colour to a terribly flat character. Shah Rukh Khan is visibly having fun with the characters and various looks, and it’s a delight to watch. Lots of props to Atlee who seems to have retrofitted the Bollywood star into a screenplay with a very Vijay-esque tone of voice. This unexpected crossover takes some getting used to, but it eventually works out in a refreshing manner for bringing the loud political conscience of the heroes of the south, to the north. Posturing or not, is open to debate.

But one thing that the film gets damn right – the action sequences. They are strikingly vivid, easy to follow, and plain damn fun to watch. The showing-off is cool because the punches are felt, and the cuts between them rather poised. There’s cool work gone in from all departments on this front and the high production value does come across. Have to mention that every single setpiece in this film towers over anything from Pathaan earlier this year.

The problem isn’t just that Atlee’s films are heavily derivative, (which has been the biggest criticism of his filmography), but it’s that he makes this very apparent, and it is clearly becoming tedious to sit through. But watching a mass film in Hindi with conviction in its massy-ness, might be something worth experiencing (in the first weekend, with a good crowd – beyond that, I can’t vouch, like for most mass films off late).


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