Unpopular popular opinion: Jawan's feminism is partly superficial

Karishma Jangid
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Jawan feminism

Jawan portrays SRK as a macho, larger-than-life hero who finds power in femininity. However, the film forgets to give power to its female cast.

Shah Rukh Khan is the king of hearts. His latest blockbuster Jawan is an enjoyable proof of the same. The film is a blockbuster and draws attention to socio-political topics, and deserves all the praise for that. But we all agree that it is SRK's charisma that is enticing the audience the most. Women, especially, are enamored with SRK’s charm. His latest avatar, Vikram Rathore, has cast a spell too. “Shah Rukh has never looked hotter,” I’ve heard from numerous women since the film's release. However, while SRK has served the female audience, I feel Jawan, as a film, lets down its female characters. In Jawan, Atlee has made SRK a larger-than-life hero, deservedly and believably so. However, numerous times, this heroism is accompanied by the trivialization of the film’s female characters. 

Jawan begins with SRK massacring evil men and standing in front of a female deity, poised as her incarnation. Later, we see him wearing a “Maa Jagat Janni” tattoo on his bald head. Our protagonist is completely comfortable channeling his inner feminine power. He sees power as feminine. He is not your average toxic hero. He leads a group of womem, helps them get justice. But what about the representation of women in the film? 

Also Read: Jawan review: SRK and Atlee deliver 2023's grandest blockbuster with relevant politics

Narmada (Nayanthara) is a hostage negotiator. And the first thing Azad does with her is flirt. Only via dialogues has it been established that she is efficient at her job. She has never failed in the past. However, every time Azad riles up a storm, she is simply a spectator. As a hostage negotiator, she barely even negotiates. Sure, there are a few action scenes added to the mix. But apart from that, her character’s sole job is to further Azad’s story. Compare Narmada with STF officer Madhavan Naik (Sanjay Dutt). Even his cameo is more impactful and impressive than Narmada’s entire character arc. He enters with his macho charisma in the air. He isn’t afraid of checking whether the landmines will blast. He even turns out to be Azad’s accomplice in the end. Narmada, on the other hand, only exists for Azad to love and save. Before the climax, Narmada, a supposedly successful hostage negotiator, ‘asks’ Azad what to do and he guides her. After the movie ends, upon getting a mission, Azad asks his father, an army man, to accompany him. How about asking Narmada too?

Not only Narmada’s but Nayanthara’s potential was wasted, too. Even in the limited screen time, especially with her action scenes, the actress proves why she was cast perfectly. The role of a cop in a masala movie is totally her forte. Her fight sequence with SRK was particularly jaw-dropping. However, the film is so infatuated with the hero that it forgets that it has a heroine.

Aishwarya (Deepika Padukone) is a powerful character. However, again, she's one that serves the hero. She is a victim of the age-old trope of women being sacrificed to enrage or motivate the hero. Atlee is known for incorporating this trope time and again into his films. 

Azad’s girl squad also runs on his orders. Now they have a fantastic screen-presence. They are bold, ready to fight for justice. However, there is still a power imbalance. A man is the saviour, the girls are the minions. “Ye jail meri auraton ka hai” shows Azad's love amd respect for his women. But most women in the jail are seen only banging plates and glasses until the climax. Even in the climax, they fight for a very little time for their chief. Mostly they just stand as spectators as the hero and villain fight. SRK, acting as the saviour for all the women around him, somehow undoes the film’s feminism that it tries to incorporate by showing women fighting for justice. 

Also, let’s not forget that SRK is romancing actresses almost 20 years younger than him. This also brings me to this question - why was 38-year-old Riddhi Dogra cast as SRK’s Amma? If we can make a 57-year-old SRK play a 30-year-old man, we can also cast an older actor as Kaveri Amma and then make her look young in the past  

I’m aware that Jawan is a masala movie. The excuse often is that nobody goes to mass movies for logic. But people are surely going to Jawan for its politics, “SRK’s silent rebellion,” as some are calling it. Why does this righteously political film leave women behind then? I also understand that Jawan is about Shah Rukh Khan. But it should be possible to keep your hero’s heroism intact even when accompanied by strong women. Why does he get to be the only strong one? Rightful representation of women won’t take away from a good movie and it definitely won’t take anything away from SRK.

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Shah Rukh Khan feminism jawan