Film Review: ‘Jai Ho’

Bollywood king Khan tries his hand at being a people's superhero in a blunt-force bullet-time action extravaganza.


Salman Khan, Tabu, Daisy Shah, Sana Khan, Danny Denzongpa, Suniel Shetty, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Nadira Babbar, Genelia D'Souza, Naman Jain, Mahesh Thakur, Resham Tipnis, Ashmit Patel, Yash Tonk. (Hindi dialogue)

One wasn’t expecting much more than headbanging cheap thrills from the new Bollywood action movie “Jai Ho,” in which Salman Khan, a.k.a. The Muscles from Mumbai (that sobriquet is our own invention), carries to a new level of slapdash vulgarity the blunt-force, post-“Matrix” style of action moviemaking that rules the roost now in Hindi cinema. When you set your sites that low, and still emerge disappointed two-and-a-half-hours later, that’s a sad day at the movies. Because Salman Khan is one the fabled Three Khans, Bollywood’s top film stars for over two decades, the earnings of “Jai Ho” are being measured against the recent huge hits of Shah Rukh Khan (“Chennai Express”) and Aamir Khan (“Dhoom 3”). At $3.5 million for its first two days of domestic release, about half what those record-breaking pics pulled in, “Jai Ho” is so far considered only an “average” hit.

Start with the fact that we have no idea what Khan’s character in the film, Jai Agnihotri, does for a living — although we do learn that he was once in the Army, until he was cashiered for disobeying a superior in border to rescue a throng of refugee orphans in picturesque tattered rags. Now as a civilian, Jai is incorrigible: Whenever he encounters a fellow citizen in need, he can’t resist the urge to jump in.

When a beggar girl is knocked down and injured at an intersection, Jai pummels the perpetrator and pulls him through the erupting windshield of his car. Jai goes to high school classes to serve as a stand-in writer during exams for a lovely girl who unfortunately has no hands. He’s for all intents and purposes a superhero, wielding a steel I-beam like a cricket bat and barely flinching when an actual cricket bat is shattered against his thick neck and skull, creating a shimmering back-lit cloud of slo-mo splinters.

The film is a remake of the over-the-top Telugu-language hit “Stalin: Man for the Society” (2006), whose writer and director, A.R. Murugadoss, also created “Ghajini” (2005), a bullet-time action duplicate of “Memento” that was re-made to huge success in 2008, in Hindi, by Aamir Khan (“Dhoom 3 “). Murugadoss himself directed the remake, so he can be held at partly responsible for getting Bollywood hooked on the uncut adrenaline of South Indian-style extreme action.

Salman Khan was the first actor to follow Aamir down the bullet-time path, reviving his flagging career in 2009 with “Wanted” (2009), a violent crime film, which was followed in short order by “Dabangg” (2010) and ” Bodyguard” (2011). Once a perpetually boyish and likable romantic leading man, Salman Khan has seemingly committed himself, as he approaches 50, to becoming “The People’s Man,” as the “Jai Ho” posters put it — a tireless equalizer driven to distraction by the contagion of injustice. “Stalin” was a punch drunk variation on “Pay it Forward,” and “Jai Ho” retains that premise.

“Your ideology has united many people,” says Jai’s sister, played by the splendid actress Tabu. (Stately-tall and with the profile of an Egyptian princess, Tabu is operating here several kilometers beneath her gifts.) Despite her assurances, though, it would be hard to say exactly what Jai’s “ideology” consists of. All he ever really says is that he hates those who “Think about [themselves] and to hell with the people.”

The people in “Jai Ho” include throngs of uniformed schoolgirls, enough of them to fill a sports arena, who dance behind the stiff-moving Khan in his big production numbers. There is also a string of salt-of-the-earth supporting characters such as an upright Minister (Mohnish Bahl), a kindly cab driver (Mahesh Manjrekar) and, our favorite, a rock-jawed army captain (Suniel Shetty) who rides to the rescue, on a freeway, in a tank, to ferry the wounded Jai to the hospital.

In a chilling sequence, the sneering head bad guy, a corrupt Minister played by veteran Bollywood icon of evil Danny Denzongpa, is swarmed and presumably torn apart by a crowd of “the people.”

To be clear: this is not a snobbish knock on populist “entertainers.” Far from it. There’s nothing easier to like than a tear-jerking, action-packed melodrama that knows no shame. But a minimal amount of skill and sensitivity are required, lest at the end of the experience we lie back feeling used and embittered, eager to catch the first bus home and drink ourselves to sleep.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Jai Ho'

Reviewed at Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino, Calif., Jan. 24, 2014. Running time: 141 MIN.


An Eros International Worldwide presentation of a Sohail Khan production in association with Pacific Ventures. Produced by Sunil Lulla, Sohail Khan. Executive producer, Prapti Doshi Moorthy. Co-producers, Zahir Khan, Parvez Khan.


Directed by Sohail Khan. Screenplay, Dilip Shukla, based on "Stalin: Man for the Society" directed by A. R. Murugadoss, written by A. R. Murugadoss and the Paruchuri Brothers. Camera (color), Santosh Thundiyil; editor, Ashish Amrute; music, Sajid Ali, Wajid Ali, Devi Sri Prasad, Amal Malik; lyrics, Sajid Ali, Irfan Kamal, Armaan Malik, Kausar Munir, Danish Sabri, Sameer; choreographers, Shaikh Jani Basha, Mudassar Khan; background score, Sandeep Shirodkar; production designer, Sabu Cyril; costume designers, Ashley Rebello, Alvira Khan AgntFernandeshotri; sound designer, Jitendra Singh; re-recording mixers, Leslie Fernandes, Ajay Kumar; visual effects supervisor, Praveen Bareria; special effects supervisor, Agnelo D'Souza; stunt coordinators, David Judge, A. Arasukumar, K. Ravivarma (BLore).


Salman Khan, Tabu, Daisy Shah, Sana Khan, Danny Denzongpa, Suniel Shetty, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Nadira Babbar, Genelia D'Souza, Naman Jain, Mahesh Thakur, Resham Tipnis, Ashmit Patel, Yash Tonk. (Hindi dialogue)

More Film

  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

    Film News Roundup: Stephen King's 'Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon' Movie in the Works

    In today’s film news roundup, a Stephen King horror movie is in the works, “Downton Abbey” is seeing strong sales and a project about Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson is in development. KING ADAPTATION Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” has been set up as a movie at George A. Romero’s Sanibel Films, [...]

  • Moviepass

    MoviePass Confirms Security Issue With Customer Records

    MoviePass, the struggling movie ticket subscription service, has confirmed a security issue may have exposed customers’ records. In a statement, MoviePass said Wednesday that the security lapse was recently discovered and its system was immediately secured. Reports of the data breach first surfaced Tuesday through the Tech Crunch site, which alleged that tens of thousands [...]

  • Matthew Modine

    Matthew Modine Accused of Violating Labor Laws With Campaign Videos

    Matthew Modine has been accused by SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris of violating federal laws in his campaign to unseat Carteris. The production of three campaign videos for Modine by the for-profit New York Film Academy — on whose board Modine sits — has been blasted by Carteris for alleged violations of federal labor law prohibiting [...]

  • Ready or Not Movie

    'Ready or Not,' 'Angel Has Fallen' Enter Box Office Race

    Three more contenders are joining what has lately been a hostile box office arena. Can anyone emerge from August victorious? Fox Searchlight’s “Ready or Not,” a black comedy about a diabolical game of hide-and-seek, will debut in 2,244 North American theaters on Wednesday. The low-budget film is expected to earn upwards of $6.5 million over [...]

  • Rules Don't Apply

    Warren Beatty and Arnon Milchan Settle Suit Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    Arnon Milchan and Warren Beatty have settled their two-year legal battle over the disastrous release of “Rules Don’t Apply,” Beatty’s period drama about Howard Hughes. Milchan’s attorneys have filed a notice with the court dismissing his suit against Beatty. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Milchan’s company, New Regency, sued Beatty and other investors [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Adam Brody'Ready or Not' film premiere,

    Adam Brody to Executive Produce, Star in 'The Kid Detective'

    “Ready or Not’s” Adam Brody has signed on to star in “The Kid Detective.” Sophie Nelisse will co-star in the dramedy from writer-director Evan Morgan. Brody will star as a once-celebrated kid detective, now 31, who continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity until a 16-year-old client (Nelisse) brings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content