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Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani to Swades: Atlee’s Jawan is a nod to Shah Rukh Khan’s filmography

Deepika Padukone, who was last paired opposite Shah Rukh in Pathaan, plays a cameo in this actioner co-starring Nayanthara and Vijay Sethupathi

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 08.09.23, 02:57 PM
Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan.

Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan. Twitter

2023 has given us a different Shah Rukh Khan. With Pathaan, we got Shah Rukh the action hero. With Jawan, we got a superstar with the heart of a common man — one who doesn’t hold back from calling a spade a spade while retaining every bit of his trademark charm. On top of that, the action-entertainer directed by Atlee, which is on course to be a monstrous box office hit, is a throwback to a lot of Shah Rukh films that have a special place in our hearts.

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani


The central plot of Jawan is anchored in the various social inequities that impact ordinary people in the harshest ways. Farmer suicides arising from the inability to repay bank loans to the corruption in the healthcare system and deplorable conditions of government hospitals, and the politician-industry nexus that is at the heart of it all, caring only for profit at the cost of citizens’ lives. Shah Rukh’s Azad Rathore in Jawan, who becomes a vigilante to rid the nation of malpractices, reminded us of his journalist character Ajay Bakshi in Aziz Mirza’s 2000 satirical comedy Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, where he took on the politician-industrialist-media triad. Like in Jawan, Shah Rukh delivered a rousing monologue in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, too, where he implored citizens to listen to their hearts and not fall for ‘fake news’ propagated by those in power.

Chak De! India

In Jawan, Azad Rathore strikes against the corrupt system with a band of girls, each of whom has a troubled past. Dr Eeram (Sanya Malhotra) is wrongly accused of killing 60 children under her care. Kalki (Lehar Khan) seeks vengeance for her farmer father’s death by suicide. Helena (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) is an ethical hacker, while Lakshmi’s (Priyamani) brother died due to a chemical leak at a factory. With Azad, these women are united by a common mission to bring down the systems of social evils.

Shah Rukh’s bonding with the girls in Jawan brings back warm memories of Chak De! India where coach Kabir Khan put together the Indian women’s hockey team with a diverse group of girls and led them to victory at the world championship.

The similarities do not end there. In Shimit Amin’s 2007 sports drama, Kabir Khan was accused of being a traitor, as the captain of the Indian men’s hockey team, and deliberately losing a match against Pakistan. Just as he became a coach of the women’s team later to clear his name, one of Azad’s aims in Jawan is to clear his soldier father Vikram Rathore’s name, who was accused of selling the country’s secrets to the enemy nation.


The name ‘Kaveri Amma’ would instantly ring a bell for any Hindi film aficionado — Mohan Bhargav’s (Shah Rukh) doting nanny in Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2004 social drama Swades. In Jawan, Azad was born in the prison where his mother Aishwarya (Deepika Padukone) was a death row inmate. Aishwarya was hanged when Azad turned five, as per the law, and a female cop named Kaveri (Riddhi Dogra) adopted him. Azad refers to her as Kaveri Amma.

Chennai Express

She came. She saw. She conquered. That’s how Deepika Padukone’s 15-minute cameo as Vikram Rathore’s wife Aishwarya goes in Jawan. Deepika and Shah Rukh’s crackling chemistry in the song Faraatta is reminiscent of their team-up in Rohit Shetty’s Chennai Express a decade ago. It is also a happy coincidence that Priyamani, who shook a leg with Shah Rukh in the song One, Two, Three Four in Chennai Express, is part of his girl gang in Jawan.

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