Vidya Balan hasn’t been going through a great phase in her career. Her hits have died down and the critical adulation also seems to have come down in recent times. She needs a hit to get back in the game. Can a nationalistic humane flick like Begum Jaan help her achieve that? Begum Jaan is a remake of the hit and critically adored Bangla film Rajkahini (2015). The same director Srijit Mukherji has returned to don the director’s hat for this one too. Does he succeed in making a competent Hindi film debut?
Sorry: Begum Jaan tells the story of the titular character played by Vidya Balan and her fellow prostitutes who live in a mansion bang in the middle of the India-Pakistan border which has been created by the British in a record span of 4 weeks to divide millions of people. Most of the prostitutes living in this brothel have a story of their own but what unites them is their fight for freedom against patriarchy. How can a British man named Cyril Radcliffe who had never been to India divide this great nation with seemingly no pretext or logic? It defied any sense. How do these girls eventually fight the system and do they even come out victorious after the bloody battle against the authorities? Watch the film to find out.
Srijit Mukherji has been responsible for bringing the urban audience in Bengal back to theatres to watch Bengali movies by making logical and sensible films with depth. With Rajkahini first and with Begum Jaan now, he brings the same amount of gravitas to a sensitive topic like the partition. And it gains even more importance because it deals with the lives of prostitutes who serve people from both communities. He goes about telling this story in a much more vociferous way than it needed to be told, but it sure makes the desired impact. The characters are heightened to a feverish pitch, the emotions are not subtle and the dialogues reek of dialoguebaazi.
Begum Jaan has mostly been shot in Jharkhand and Bengal and to pass it off as Punjab is doing a disservice to the partition survivors of the ones in the East, but that’s another story altogether. It has been shot well, and the movie looks and feels like a period drama. The production design and costume design is good enough. The editing is crisp, and a lot of elements from the original film have been mopped off. The music is by Anu Malik who delivers a rather poignant album. But it lacks any chartbusters.
Acting: Vidya Balan is the heart and soul of Begum Jaan. She gives it her all in and as Vidya Jaan, err, Begum Jaan. She is feisty, raunchy and in equal measures innocent. Gauhar Khan is in prime form as Begum Jaan’s confidante. She gets the accent and mannerisms right. Pallavi Sharda puts in a layered performance. Ila Arun is good. Vivek Mushran, Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapur provide the male faces to this women oriented story/world. Chunky Pandey is the surprise package of Begum Jaan as he does a 180° and sheds his funny image to play the ruthless Kabir.
Conclusion: Begum Jaan is far from bad, it’s execution may not be upto scratch but it says a lot of pertinent things about the subcontinent and its people. Kausar Munir’s dialogues heighten the premise and makes Begum Jaan far more entertaining than the story promises. Srijit Mukherji makes a competent debut in Bollywood, but hopefully next time he will choose an original story. Begum Jaan deserves to be seen because it provides a peek into a world that has largely been left ignored by the general populace.
- Vidya Balan
- Researched plot help the story
- The costume design and production design
- Dialogues are too filmsy
- Heightened sense of realism
- Music is a disappointment