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King of Bollywood: Shaping women empowerment under his reign with 'JAWAAN'

Just a fair warning there are spoilers ahead!

When we recall Bollywood the first name that rolls off the tongue is the one and only Shah Rukh Khan, the industry's beloved actor and pioneer of Hindi Cinema with at least 103 movies on his portfolio. Every other actor in the Indian film industry dreams of achieving half what he has and unanimously agrees that he is a force to be reckoned with. With a single gesture of opening his arms wide, he has taken the world by storm and helped shape the idea of romance and true love for several women around the globe. Yet what remains a question is how well he has helped depict women's empowerment with his latest release Jawaan.

I recently had the chance to watch the much-awaited film Jawaan which broke records at the box office with its first release and has been garnering much attention from its extended cut on Netflix. The film featured stories of marginalized communities in India that had been discriminated against, exploited, and left to die with no sense of justice while the rich or the upper strata remained comfortable in their own homes with no regard for the blood that piled up on their hands. Shah Rukh Khan has effectively aligned women empowerment in his new era of films where not only is their inclusive casting with Indian women from all provinces from southern to northern parts of India but the multi-faceted storyline caters to significant issues that prevail in society that women deal with.

Each woman has a different story in the movie and Shah Rukh Khan's double roles of Azaad & his father Vikram Rathore act as the flag bearers for justice for the common people with the intellect and abilities of this solid female cast. Women have always been seen as instruments of respect in the family and are seen as powerless even in the face of injustice, when in a scene Kalki a farmer's daughter witnesses her father's attempt to free their family of the debt of extractive taxation at the hands of Kalee, the villain, is by suiciding, Kalki rages towards the men responsible for threatening her family and hits a shovel on their head. This shows how violence becomes a resort for women who have been ripped off of everything to establish their power over their male counterparts and to develop not only fear but also a sense of control.

Narmada, the female lead and Shah Rukh's love interest takes on a single mom representation in the film who is also working as a part of the special agent force for the nation where she encounters Azad, however, her identity as many other Bollywood film representations is initially matched with a re-marriage plotline where it feeds to the audiences demand for a romance narrative and we all know how a Shaadi scene becomes a must. Perpetuation of this consistent theme where a single worki-

-ng woman needs to re-marry for the sake of the child so that there is no missing father figure in the child's life showcasing the idea that marriage is the solution to all problems for women. The film does well to build this through wholesome scenes between her daughter and Azad yet does little to help the narrative of girl power it so evidently aims to preach.

Even in promoting freedom for the women's jail that Azad is a warden of shows the role of a mother's sacrifice for her child therefore a maternalistic view is taken into showing how mothers are superheroes as well. It caters to the emotions of motherhood that exist amongst the wide female audience for Shah Rukh Khan's movies with Deepika who becomes the first mother of the jail and only by bringing a child into the lives of females can bring ultimate happiness. The development of a son as a child who will serve to save all the women jailed feeds into the male saviour complex that Bollywood films bring about however the director Atlee has been involved in creating scenes where the "Jawaan Women" embody the role of heroes as they take part in intense fighting scenes as well as outsmarting several male-created systems of security. It is definitely a development in the stark rise in women-centric media in South Asia where narratives of female strength and intelligence shine through with a focus on female loyalty and camaraderie that Khan has achieved even with his previous works of Chak de India that dealt with breaking gender stereotypes and roles with women playing professionally and chasing their dreams.

Although having female leads in future films will allow for a marriage-free movie that allows for room for women to believe that there can be a woman Azad who can fight against the injustices of marginalized communities under their own terms without having such preachy tones to women empowerment through just a combination of action and romance.

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This comment offers a critical examination of the Korean TV series "True Beauty," emphasising its distinct perspective on adolescent romance while tackling important subjects like bullying in high school, stress related to school, and unattainable beauty standards. The commenter highlights how the show appeals to a female viewership by equating the educational systems of Pakistan and Korea while presenting realistic aspects of school life and parental guidance. A nuanced perspective is provided by the perceptive analysis of how education is portrayed in Korean dramas, with a focus on pedagogy, academic pressure, and the quest of self-identity. The statement ends by praising the show's beneficial influence on younger viewers and urging them to prioritise personal development over following social norms—a clear…


This incisive commentary explores Shah Rukh Khan's influence on Bollywood and praises his efforts to advance women's empowerment via Jawaan, his most recent release. It examines the film's nuanced depiction of women, taking into account the varied upbringings and life experiences of the female leads. The remark also critically analyses the Bollywood narrative's repeated theme of marriage as a solution for women, highlighting how the movie, despite its moments of female strength, nevertheless reinforces some stereotypes. The commenter proposes that films featuring female leads in the future could delve into narratives that are not centred around marriage, offering a more nuanced view of women's empowerment through a blend of romance and action.


01 de dez. de 2023

I'm not much of a Bollywood fan, in fact, I avoid Bollywood films any chance I can get. This blog, however, has me quite intrigued. Although the movie's description still gives me the same vibe as yet another failed attempt at women empowerment that's actually demeaning and perpetuates stereotypes. Narmada's initial portrayal leans towards the tired narrative of re-marriage as a solution for single mothers, albeit with wholesome interactions between her daughter and Azad. Similarly, the film valorizes motherhood through Deepika's character, suggesting that childbearing is necessary for ultimate happiness. While the focus on female loyalty and camaraderie is laudable, the "male savior" complex lingers with the son's potential to save the women.

I just don't understand why attempts at…


This is a thought-provoking blog post that delves into the complexities of female representation in Bollywood, especially through Shah Rukh Khan's recent film "Jawaan". I still haven't gotten to watch this movie but your blog has certainly spiked my interest. What stood out to me was the insightful analysis of how women's empowerment is portrayed in the film, highlighting both its strengths and areas where it arguably falls short. I appreciated the detailed breakdown of the characters, particularly Narmada and Kalki, and how their stories reflect broader societal issues. The contrast between the traditional portrayal of women in Bollywood and the more progressive elements in "Jawaan" raises important questions about the evolving narrative of female empowerment in Indian cinema. One aspect…


I've heard so much about this movie but still havent gotten to watching it though. It's interesting to see the turn that bollywood cinema is taking and your take on it was a really good read. The only critique that I nonetheless have though is something that Zoha mentioned as well, about the role of the male characters having a helping role which sort of diminishes the notion of women empowerment. Another thing that sort of did not click for me was the empowerment of maternal roles because that nonetheless is something that is already common and nonetheless ties women down to their roles relating to other men, which in this case, as you mentioned was the son.

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