‘Jawan’: What’s Old is New Again — And More Relevant Than Ever

The latest action blockbuster from Shah Rukh Khan showcases the actor’s many avatars, with epic storytelling that has long been missing in Hindi cinema.

Shah Rukh Khan in 'Jawan' (2023)

Snigdha Sur


September 8, 2023


7 min

After a five-year Shah Rukh Khan drought, fans will have not one, not two, but three King Khan-sized films to reckon with in 2023: Pathaan, Jawan, and Dunki. But lest you think Jawan is a Pathaan remix (after all, it features soldiers, special ops, guns, twists, and Deepika Padukone), filmmaker Atlee is out there to prove you wrong. Jawan is far bloodier, gorier, grittier, and story-er. It’s maximalist and revels in it.

Jawan, which means both “soldier” and “young” in Hindi, is all about seeing life in double and reexamining what you think you know. The film opens at India’s border, with haunting yodeling, lush waterfalls, and a stunning lake. The cinematography is breathtaking. We see a man, gravely injured, splayed across a horse’s back, blood dripping from his fingers. He has multiple bullet wounds, though a shaman-like figure eventually nurses him back to health. When what appears to be Chinese troops invade the northeastern village, this mummy-like figure — with haunting eyes — rises from his slumber to help.

We cut to modern-day Mumbai, India, 30 years later, where a hijacking is in progress, what seems like the messiah who saved the village at the helm. Who is this man? What happened that led him here? As the film’s trailer narrates: “Galat kiya ya sahin?...Punya hoon ya paap hoon?” Did I do the wrong thing or the right one…Am I virtuous or sinful? If the infamous Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, have anything to say about it, there is no correct answer. Life is complicated, and it is exactly this grey area where Khan — stalker, villain, romantic hero, action man — excels. And you won’t be able to get enough.

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