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What is Jawan about?
Jawan is, at its core, about activism. There’s that moment when Azad takes off his Vikram Rathore cosplay and talks directly to the Indian people about why they need to vote and how they question everything besides their government and all it takes to have a better country is caring about voting and holding politicians accountable. That isn’t just Azad speaking to the characters in the film. It’s Shah Rukh Khan, the Baadshah of Bollywood himself, giving a PSA to the entire nation. It’s a message Atlee wants his audience to hear. Not just in India but across the world. Political apathy is rampant across the world. As much as Jawan is an over-the-top, epic Bollywood film, it transcends simply being about entertainment value or artistic expression. It has the same revolutionary spirit of a V for Vendetta but is so much more pointed and direct.
Beyond the core message of encouraging people to care about politics, Jawan’s plot explores themes of female empowerment, karma, duty, truth, patriotism, vigilantism, and the dichotomy between princes/the rich and soldiers/the people.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Azad / Captain Vikram Rathore | Shah Rukh Khan
- Narmada Rai – Nayanthara
- Aishwarya Rathore – Deepika Padukone
- Dr. Eeram – Sanya Malhotra
- Lakshmi – Priyamani
- Ishkra – Girija Oak
- Kalki – Lehar Khan
- Janhvi – Aaliyah Qureishi
- Helena – Sanjeeta Bhattacharya
- STF officer Madhavan Naik – Sanjay Dutt
- Kalee Gaikwad – Vijay Sethupathi
- Written by – Atlee | S. Ramana Girivasan
- Directed by – Atlee
The ending of Jawan explained
The ending of Jawan begins with Azad’s heartfelt message to the people of India that they need to bring the same questioning energy they have for buying a car to voting for a government. It’s a wake up call to the public. Political apathy leads to tragedy. Having made his plea, Azad returns the country’s voting machines to the negotiator on site, STF officer Madhavan Naik.
Just then, Kalee shows up. He initially has the upper hand but loses it when his pistol fails to fire. Its helpless clicking is a full-circle moment that calls back to the military operation where Kalee’s weapons almost cost Vikram and his team their lives. Hearing, once again, that empty click, Vikram regains his lost memory and unlocks his heart. He shares a brief moment with Azad, father and son connecting in a way they previously couldn’t. A final fight concludes with Vikram and Azad overwhelming Kalee and his gigantic henchman.
Kalee’s fate is karmic in nature, as he suffers the same hanging that he made happen for Aishwarya all those years prior. Azad even recreates moments from Kalee’s speech to Aishwarya.
Jawan’s post-credit scene picks up several months in the future. Azad has a small restaurant in a bright, happy cityscape. The girls are there, having fun. Vikram’s there, relaxing. We come to find out that Madhavan Naik has been on Azad’s team this entire time. He was the man on the inside. In a Mission: Impossible-like way, Naik gives Azad a new assignment that involves Swiss banks.
Throughout Jawan, Atlee makes it clear there’s a social message. One section is about the exploitation of farmers. Another focuses on the health minister compromising hospitals and medical care in order to line their own pockets. Vikram’s backstory covers how the insertion of private businesses into military operations can compromise missions and lead to an unnecessary loss of life. Counter to all these negative examples is the women’s prison led by Vikram’s son, Azad. Under his direction, the women have done a tremendous amount of good for the general public, turning the prison into not only a public service but completely eliminating recidivism in the process. It’s a win/win for everyone.
All of the Bollywood stylizing keeps people entertained and engaged but what they’re watching isn’t a popcorn flick. It’s an extremely critical condemnation of the current state of India, according to Atlee and SRK. The message isn’t couched in dystopian fiction like V for Vendetta. Or historic wink-wink-nudge-nudge-ing like Oppenheimer where there’s a point being made about the present without any direct commentary about anyone or anything in the present. Nope. Jawan goes right for the jugular. Though it does stop short of calling out specific parties or names. But it’s very much concerned with the India of the 2020s and calling out the very people watching it. You have SRK literally taking off a mask in order to speak directly to the audience.
With that in mind, the final fight is very symbolic. Kalee represents the heart of corruption—businessmen who control the government in a way that favors profits over people. There’s even a subplot that shows how these businesses will prioritize foreign investors and interests over the people of India. While Azad and Vikram represent the general population. The last clash becomes less about Kalee and the Rathores and more about the people purging India of its negative influences.
Some have criticized Jawan for encouraging vigilantism but that’s missing the point of the film. The message isn’t “Go out and terrorize.” It’s a reminder that people have the power to affect change. By taking action that holds the government accountable, you can make a difference. That’s why the film places such emphasis and importance on voting. All the vigilante stuff is for the entertainment value of the audience. But the message is to vote, to question, to care.
There’s a cross-generational message there too. It isn’t just on Azad to change things. He couldn’t succeed, much less survive, without the support of his father. You can extrapolate this as it being a united effort to change the country. The youth can only get so far without the support of their elders. It takes a nation.
With all that said, the post-credit scene doesn’t feel quite as thematically relevant so much as simply being a fun way to introduce the potential of a sequel. Atlee told Pinkvilla: “Every one of my films has an open ending, but I have never considered making a sequel to any of them. If anything substantial comes to me, I’ll make a part two for Jawan. I could write a sequel now or in the future because I left the ending open, but will undoubtedly produce a Jawan sequel sometime.”
The revelation that Azad has been working with a Special Task Force office behind the scenes also does add an interesting twist. Is he still a vigilante or part of what’s essentially a self-correcting force within the government? The answer doesn’t change the intention of the film—that audiences have the power to create the government they want—but it does create some new talking points for those who want to dive into the nuance of the messaging.
The themes and meaning of Jawan
Government is what we make of it
As much as Jawan condemns the government and corrupt officials, it doesn’t put the onus of change on them. Instead, it points the finger at the general public and says, “Your apathy is what made this possible. It happens. But not only can you do better, you must. So get to it.”
Karma and balance
There’s a strong sense of karma throughout Jawan. Kalee stole money from farmers, so the first mission sees Azad and crew steal money from Kalee. The man who runs the public hospitals into the ground ends up needing a public hospital to save his life. Kalee was able to nearly kill Vikram because the gun Vikram fired didn’t work. Of course, at the very end, when Kalee’s about to execute Vikram, the weapon jams.
All of this resonates with the primary theme of government is what we make of it. If we are apathetic and elect cretins, then the system and our lives will reflect that. Likewise, if we’re vigilant and hold the government to high standards, then the system and our lives will reflect that.
You get what you give.
There’s a nice dynamic when it comes to how Jawan utilizes the theme of duty. In Azad’s origin story, we see how his mom raised him in the women’s prison, as she had a five-year stay of execution due to being pregnant at the time. She tasks the young Azad with clearing his father’s name, to prove Vikram Rathore wasn’t a traitor. Azad then spends his entire life preparing to do just that.
The payoff is two fold. First, the act of clearing his father’s name ends up having a cleansing effect on the entire country. Because to prove Vikram was a victim, Azad has to prove how broken the system truly is. Second, by staying loyal to his father, Azad actually paves the way for Vikram’s return. Initially, this is compromised by Vikram’s amnesia. But when his memory returns, there’s the cathartic, happy embrace between father and son, Mufasa and Simba.
This dovetails with the state of the country.
During Azad’s big speech about voting, he mentions how the public is “charged with duty” to ask questions of potential politicians. What will the politicians do in the next 5 years? For education? For employment? For health care? This duty placed upon the public is similar to the duty Aishwaya placed on Azad. That creates this idea that by fulfilling that duty, you get to be like Azad. He’s the ideal. And while maybe you can’t be exactly like Azad. Or Shah Rukh Khan. You can live by the same ideals and play your part, like a good soldier.
Jawan ensures women are important figures in all aspects of the story. Azad wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without the help of the women in the prison and his elite team of six. Likewise, Narmada is, initially, his major opposition as the chief of Force One (the Mumbai police’s counter terrorism unit).
Jawan speaks to the importance of women in society. Not just as homemakers and mothers but as active participants in the day to day operations. In a movie called “Soldier” it seems particularly pointed. For a long time, women were excluded from combat roles in the Indian military. A BBC article from September 2021 details how “the government told the Supreme Court that women can join military colleges and be eligible for permanent commissions.”
And that, “In August, the court had criticised the government for having a ‘regressive mindset’ for not allowing women to sit for [National Defence Academy] examinations. ‘It is a policy decision which is based in gender discrimination,’ the court had said. Women at the moment are inducted into the army through the Short Service Commission (SSC) and don’t qualify for a permanent commission—which allows an officer to serve a full tenure. So women are initially meant to serve for five years, but have the option of extending their tenure. However, they don’t get the same benefits as their male counterparts.”
As of writing this article, things have opened up. It seems India now allows women to serve in any capacity. An article from BYJU’S Exam Prep has details on Seema Rao, “the country’s first-ever female commando trainer.”
In January of 2023, the Indian Air Force allowed Avani Chaturvedi to be the first female fighter pilot in the country’s history to participate in international war games.
So it seems reality outpaced Jawan. Initial rumors of the movie started in 2019. Filming started in August 2021 but ended up happening in chapters. June 2022. August 2022. October. February 2023. March 2023. And April. The final shooting happened in July, a mere two months before release. That makes sense for such an epic film. It must have been surreal to see what progress happened between the project’s inception to its release 4 years later.
Why is the movie called Jawan?
Jawan means soldier. The most straightforward interpretation of the title is that it’s a reference to Captain Vikram Rathore. They even directly refer to him as a jawan. And there’s this great line where the villains say about Vikram, “Is he some prince? No, a soldier.”
That gets at the central tension where the wealthy prioritize their own. While the soldiers represent the general public.
But it goes even deeper. Soldiers have a duty to their country. To protect it. Defend it. When Azad goes on TV and tells the public that they have a duty to be more politically active and discerning, he’s giving them a responsibility similar to that of a soldier. Be the one who protects and defends. In that way, we’re all soldiers. We may not be as martially proficient as the Rathores, but no one is. The power we see in Vikram and Azad is a metaphor for the power of the motivated individual. That’s something we all possess.
Important motifs in Jawan
The outrageous Russian that Kalee gets into business with is symbolic for foreign interests who try to take advantage of India through immoral business people like Kalee.
The factories shut down near the end of the movie are part of Kalee’s foreign interest plan. He wants to sell out India to overseas manufacturing. Cheap labor. Little regulation. Taking down the factories begins a process of reclamation by the Indian people. Something that’s made quite literal in the scenes that show regular people close each factory.
The women’s jail
Given the amount of social commentary throughout Jawan, it doesn’t seem coincidental that the film places the majority of its female characters in a prison. You can view this as commentary on the limitations women have faced in Indian society. But how instead of being broken by such a thing, they’ve managed to still play an important role. Just imagine what they could do outside of the jail.
Questions & answers about Jawan
Will there be a sequel?
Atlee has already confirmed working on a script. Which isn’t surprising since Jawan has set box office records for India. It’s a smash with international appeal. So a sequel is definitely happening.
Why didn’t Vikram remember anything?
Falling from the plane, he landed in a river and hit his head. The knock to the nogging caused an amnesia that lasted 30-ish years.
What was Azad’s final ransom?
He was just holding the voting machines hostage a little longer so he could give the big speech about why people need to care more about their vote.
Is Jawan based on any real life events?
India does have a severe issue with farmers committing suicide due to loans. In 2004 alone, it’s said that as many as 18,000 farmers took their own lives.
Likewise, a state-run hospital in Gorakhpur had 1,300 child deaths in 2017 alone. One specific incident involved deaths caused by an oxygen shortage. Just like in Jawan. And its even worse than in the movie. The oxygen supplier sent 20 letters to officials reminding them that they owed money or else the delivery would stop. The notices started in April. Oxygen ran out in August. 72 children died just from this completely avoidable issue. And, yup, the government denied deaths had anything to do with oxygen shortages and instead arrested 9 people, including the doctor in charge of the encephalitis ward, Kafeel Khan.
Then there was the Bofors scandal. A Swedish arms manufacturer paid about US$100 million in bribes to top-ranking Indian officials. That secured them a contract worth US$2.5 billion for 410 howitzer guns. An Italian businessman named Ottavio Quattrocchi was the one who brokered the deal, apparently due to connection to the prime minister of the time, Rajiv Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma).
Quattrocchi ended up wanted but fled India in 1991. In 2007, Interpol detained Quattrochi in an Argentinian airport. From an article by The Economic Times: “It is alleged Quattrochi was so influential with the office of the prime minister—Rajiv Gandhi—that bureaucrats used to stand up when Quattrocchi visited them. It is also alleged he could get ministers and bureaucrats sacked if they snubbed or challenged his authority. Sound familiar?
The howitzers themselves had no problems and were successfully used in combat against Pakistan.
But there is a story from 2018 that various outlets reported. Pew Pew Tactical has an article discussing domestic arms production in India. Quote, “Soldiers frequently complain because the standard rifle regularly james, has terrible stopping power, sprays oil in the user’s eyes (really?), and suffers parts breakage—particularly in cold weather.” It continues, “The Indian Army rejected two indigenously manufactured rifles…citing quality concerns and failed firing tests.”
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Jawan? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!