Joan: Indian cinema is conquering the West
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Joan: Indian cinema is conquering the West

Indian cinema is the new proven value of big-picture cinema. Joan demonstrates true know-how at all levels. An ambitious project bearing the fixed features of the famous actor Shah Rukh Khan.


Hostage crisis in Mumbai Metro. It is led by a group of six women and their mysterious leader, Azad (Shah Rukh Khan). The group demands ransom from a powerful arms dealer (Vijay Sethupathi) and is soon pursued by Officer Narmada (Nayanthara). With this introduction, we are drawn into a series of action scenes, twists and delicious down songs.

The first observation that jumps out from the first scene is that Indian blockbuster cinema has replaced American blockbusters. Aside from his rejection, Joan makes many references to his influences, and they are many! The Matrix, Mission Impossible, The Lion King, Batman and even The Shining are mixed in with references to Indian cinema like Sholay. This may seem indigestible on paper, and yet, over the course of over two and forty hours, it is wonderfully orchestrated.

This entire building was built for and managed by Shah Rukh Khan, the star actor who, even though he has known stagnation periods, has always managed to maintain his iconic status. Following in the footsteps of Tom Cruise, he refuses to grow old, or only if it allows him to play an old biker without ties and a long cigar, and even more famous. Thus, the film makes the age of its actor (57 years old) a central topic, aiming to assure us that at any age, at its highest levels as well as at its lowest levels, Shah Rukh Khan will always remain the symbol that Indian cinema has known how to build. .

Thus, the actor multiplies the turns and pauses throughout the scenes that are constantly epic through a production that is always moving and, above all, through a jarring montage that does not hesitate to punctuate its scenes with rapid slow motion. But the actor still looks his age and this can be seen in the live action scenes where his face is exposed. Suddenly, plans become shorter and the readability of actions suffers. Fortunately, these moments remain rare, better executed, and more entertaining than what American cinema has accustomed us to seeing.

This is the big difference that lies in the approach to dealing with symbols. The American blockbuster was tired of epic sagas and when the audience started laughing at them, he chose to laugh with them. It thus becomes a kind of self-parody that often seeks to mock itself in the hope of being better accepted. As a result, today he struggles to regain his ability to move the audience through his adventures.

Jawan is one Indian film that is the opposite of this approach. He takes himself seriously and avoids laughing at himself. When he does, it’s on unimportant topics, like Shah Rukh Khan’s hair dye or Vijay Sethupathi’s style in ‘Santa Claus’. Thus, its presentation is never defused, allowing it to always be luxurious. He replaces realism with pleasure, and when the spectator laughs at his excesses, it is always out of gratitude that he is being shown what he cannot see elsewhere.

Is Jawan a sign that Indian cinema is poised to replace American cinema? But let’s remember that Joan is one of the rare films that has been able to benefit from international distribution while the country produces nearly 2,000 films every year, putting it ahead of the United States. India consists of a myriad of productions, offering films in different languages, targeting local audiences, with very different themes. The desire to collect all these productions with different themes, styles and dialects under one name – “Indian cinema” – is a biased Western vision.

However, the Indian film industry suffers from the low average cost of a movie ticket, but it also suffers from a shortage of cinemas. Although the country has more than 9,000 screens, ranking third globally, behind the United States and China, this does not even equate to one screen per 100,000 inhabitants. Therefore, there is an interesting solution for the development of this industry: export. Export through streaming platforms (actually the streaming rights to Jawan have just been bought by Netflix) but also export to Western cinemas.

It’s interesting to see Joan from this angle. The film puts the famous Shah Rukh Khan, known far beyond his borders, at the center of its promotion. He makes many American references, citing them explicitly, or drawing inspiration from his famous characters such as Rambo. It makes the hijacking of democracy a central theme, which reflects Western issues, especially the United States.

It is clear that Gowan addresses the Indian audience above all else and delivers a direct address on his country’s problems. He highlights the high suicide rate among his farmers, corruption problems, and equipment shortages in hospitals. But at the same time, it does not fail to convey a universal message, and to make significant appeals through its many references to Western audiences.

Hence, Jawan is a film that can be exported without betraying itself. It retains its dance moments, its references to Indian history and, above all, its ability to deliver a show that manages to sell its iconography without drowning in cynicism. It accommodates its American references wonderfully without ever losing its identity. Indian cinema has lessons to teach us about this balance and its undeniable quality.

Joan
IND – 2023
Action, suspense
Duration: 2:45 minutes
Director: Atlee Kumar
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Nayanthara, Vijay Sethupathi, Deepika Padukone, Sanjay Dutt, Ridhi Dogra.
ABC Distribution
09/08/2023 in the cinema

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