Jawan brought a lot of people to the theatres, and that’s success in itself. The film might even sound great on paper, a massy action-thriller starring some great actors, including Shah Rukh Khan. But, it’s almost like we look up to SRK so much, that we hardly notice the flaws in what he does. He’s a great actor, possibly a good person as well; but that doesn’t mean that we can’t critique his work. Especially when it’s sold as something “socially aware” and responsible.
So, it’s only normal to find and point out flaws in the film. For instance:
1. The hero complex.
We’ve known and seen SRK as a hero, which we’ve mostly loved. However, for a film like Jawan, that boasts about its ‘women empowerment’, the story should show women in-charge. Of course, there are women who are strong and opinionated, but they hardly get the center stage. It comes down to the hero doing the saving, or the hero complex. So, yes there were women, but it was not empowering when a man was there to take the spotlight. A male heroic character is not the problem, the problem is a ‘feminist’ film showing the guy as the rescuer, for women who are just as capable.
2. The treatment of sensitive scenes.
Films often portray sensitive scenes which add to the story, and it’s okay as long as it’s important. There is, however, a way to do that properly. It’s important to keep a check especially when a triggering shot is put into a film. Jawan missed out on that – in showing sequences of farmers’ suicide and animal abuse. In doing that, there were frames that were insensitive. Of course, it’s important to address issues, but when doing so in media, there have to be better ways or suggestive shots that have an impact without being triggering.
3. The surface-treatment of too many issues.
Jawan is being lauded for bringing up social issues and the politics associated with them but it did not focus on how to do it right. Just touching upon an issue, especially in a society like ours isn’t enough. It requires addressing them, and being real in dealing with them. The solutions were Utopian, and that’s not enough for a political thriller. For instance, the plot points out the issues that farmers deal with, and that was good. However, we see a fast-forwarded resolution which doesn’t offer a real solution – it creates a happy vibe, but that’s all it does.
4. The use of mockery to introduce a joke in the plot.
In a scene, a person of short stature is seen talking to Vijay Sethupathi’s character, Kalee. This character worked for Kalee, the antagonist through the film. To add some sense of comic relief, we see Kalee mistreating and mocking the employee, and his stature. He also evidently dealt with a speaking disability which was just another way to add a ‘laugh’ to the plot, because that is how he was treated. The issue is, audiences actually laugh on the character, because he’s portrayed as a laughing stock, which is problematic and just plain wrong. Not to mention, weak writing.
5. The problematic age-gap.
As an SRK fan, I love watching the actor as his charming self, doing what he does best – romance. There’s a but, here. We cannot ignore the fact that his co-actors are usually younger than him by a prominent gap. We often call out other actors on this, rightly so; but we don’t do that when it comes to Shah Rukh Khan. A romance is not the problem, the ageism and sexism is. Why can’t we get a man and a woman in their 50s as the lead characters, who also get to romance?
6. The unnecessary musical-like treatment.
Okay, so this is not just a Jawan issue, this is a Bollywood issue. Most of our films have too many songs, and not many are relevant – despite how beautiful they sound. They don’t add much (or anything) to the plot. With Jawan, this issue worsens, because we keep getting massy numbers in between important scenes. So, this almost lessens the seriousness of the issues introduced. They also feed into the hero complex, which is not great for the supposedly empowered plot. The sad part is, these are not the best songs.
7. The weak statement.
Films don’t have to be political, that said, if they choose to be, it should be done well. Or at least with some responsibility. Jawan picked some important social issues, but it was too careful in dealing with them. This also looked like a lack of research. For instance, the ‘voting monologue’ asked people to question politicians and to not vote based on our biases. Which is fine, but that isn’t enough, especially for a society that is stuck deeper in this mess. Again, it’d be totally fine to not portray any political or social awareness, but if we choose to do something, we might as well do it right.
Our love for our favourite actor shouldn’t turn into irresponsible behaviour, or about turning the blind eye.
All images are screenshots from the trailer on YouTube.