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Jawan: Bollywood bling with strident social messaging!

Published : Tuesday, 3 October, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 419
Pradosh Mitra

Jawan: Bollywood bling with strident social messaging!

Jawan: Bollywood bling with strident social messaging!

The entertainment industry is currently caught in the Jawan frenzy. Shahrukh Khan's, (SRK) new movie has already earned more than one thousand crore Rupees and from the looks of how the audience is responding to the film, critics have stated that this may end up being among the top three Bollywood productions of all time, if not the biggest hit.

If memory serves correctly, the longest running Bollywood film is DilwaleDulhaniya Le Jayenge, another SRK romantic flick which came out in the mid 90s and is still running. It won't be surprising if the same happens for Jawan.

To use a pun, Jawan's appeal may never grow old!

Resurrecting SRK as the King Khan: If there's something called a revenant than this has to be it! SRK, on the wrong side of the fifties, was becoming a bit too trite in his roles and his last film,Pathaan got a lukewarm response in Bangladesh.

However, just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, SRK has come back in true scorpion style to give us a sting that has got the movie industry across the world in a tizzy.

For an SRK fan, this is the ultimate reward! With Jawan - a film that astutely blends Bollywood glitz with pure art house social messaging, SRK has proved that commercial movies need not be vacuous.

Any commercial film must have a certain degree of suspension of disbelief and Jawan is not an exception to the rule but the crucial thing to ensure is that the fantasy does not wade into the frivolous.

Naturally, if we wear spectacles of reason, many flaws can be found in Jawan.

However, the inclusion of significant social issues that ring true not only in India but also in other South Asian nations, compel us to take a rational view.

Look beneath the glitz: The movie alludes to the ramshackle public healthcare system (with reference to the Bhopal Tragedy in 1984), sharp practice in the purchase of weapons for the army (resonating with the Bofors Scandal in 1987) and ruthless loan and interest redemption policies by unscrupulous banks.

The biggest message is about the need for the masses to demand and exercise their right to vote for the person of choice and not be manipulated or intimidated.

In an impassioned address to the audience,SRK, in his role as a modern day messiah, makes a request to never compromise on democratic rights.

Naturally, in the movie,SRK is a modern day Robin Hood type figure but instead of merry men is aided by merry women - a theme that assertively celebrates roles women can play to make society better.

The recurrent leitmotif is 'Girl Power' topped with tantalising layers of typical Bollywood razzle dazzle.
Jawan shows women as the catalyst for social change - a message that strikes a chord in Bangladesh where the garment industry is powered mainly by women.

The call for the nation to unite against corruption is intertwined with the plot.

Of course we all love total escapism in the cinema hall; however, times have changed as movies can no longer be a crowd puller if it's only bling.

And then there's the SRK swagger:  Yes, it's there alright - inimitable to the end. The rule of commercial films is to flaunt muscles, figures and gadgets.

SRK does that but it never seems pretentious or stilted. This is where our movie makers and actors need some coaching. In local productions, the showboating often wades into the frivolous.

That line between swagger and silliness has to be maintained.

It's a Bollywood flick and, obviously, we expect nothing short of epic. Talk about camera, editing, action sequences plus portrayal of nature - each and every bit is done with care.

The beginning of the movie is similar to James Bond's pre title sequence; only here, there's the exhilarating Bollywood flavour.

A wounded SRK, draped in bandages, comes to the aid of hapless villagers who are being oppressed by what appears to be soldiers with oriental features. I don't think an elaboration on the suggested nationality of the soldiers is needed.

The first fifteen minutes had the whole cinema hall rising to the feet, chanting and screaming - Jawan electrifies from the start; trust me, the excitement never ends.

I won't reveal the plot because it will spoil the fun but know this, there are twists galore - a feature that makes a movie truly marvellous.

Jawan lessons for our film makers:  The biggest lesson form Jawan is the formula it follows: a total feel good movie with action and exuberance interspersed with strident social messages. On one hand this is a commercial production but on the other, an educational film that talks about Bofors Scandal, Bhopal Tragedy, civil rights and so on.

This formula with a euphoric ending works like a tonic for most people who go to the movies for relaxation and joy. Many of our films still cling on to the tear jerker formula where the ending is a circus of sadness. That formula doesn't work anymore. There was a time when people wanted the 'sad' endings; today, we want to come out of the halls with our families feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Jawan resonates perfectly with the need of the time and delivers with precision. People came out of the halls laughing, smiling and cheering, took photos with SRK cut out images, sang songs and then went home with a new resolve to face the banality of everyday life.

I am no social expert but felt that impact of such movies trickle into our lives, lightening the burden of real life complications.

The second lesson is to minimise empty dialogue or better still, clichéd lines.

In one scene,SRK is asked: what is your demand?
He responds: the demand is Alia Bhatt but she is too young! A very natural line but it got the whole hall roaring with laughter.

Humour is needed but not buffoonery!

The third lesson is to keep twists if the plot - something that draws gasps from the audience.

There's been a lot of discussion about Jawan's staggering cost and while this is true, there's no reason why local films cannot be made with far less. Give us the plot and get rid of the inferior special effects, that's it!

Nothing works like a solid story with happy faces in the end! Therefore, say goodbye to Devdas, or better still, exorcise his ghost and embrace the new template.

The modern day protagonist outwits the villain, gets the girl and promises to come back with more. Shall we hope for a sequel of Jawan?

You bet!
Pradosh Mitra is a movie buff!

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