Begum Jaan Movie Review: Fairly Patchy but Well-Acted
A heart-wrenching portrayal of feminine assertion in the backdrop of a violent partition.
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Starring: Vidya Balan, Ila Arun, Gauhar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Ridheema Tiwary, Flora Saini, Mishti, Naseeruddin Shah, Rajit Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi, Vivek Mushran, Chunky Pandey
- Directed by: Srijit Mukherji
- Produced by: Mukesh Bhatt, Vishesh Bhatt
- Dialogue: Kausar Munir
- Screenplay: Srijit Mukherji, Kausar Munir
- Cinematography: Gopi Bhagat
- Narration: Amitabh Bachchan
- Music by: Anu Malik, Khayyam
- Duration: 2:14 hours
- Genre: Melodrama
- Censor Rating: A
About Movie Begum Jaan
Begum Jaan is the Hindi remake of the acclaimed Bengali film ‘Rajkahini’, released in 2015 and directed by Srijit Mukherji. The movie is set in the backdrop of partition, when the nation was being torn apart under British supervision.
The story revolves around a brothel and its fiery keeper, who along with 11 other inmates, gets drawn into the murky world of politics and partition. When Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the British diplomat, drew the infamous ‘Radcliff Line’ that partitioned the nation in two, little did the inmates of the brothel know that it would change their lives forever.
Eviction was what the administrators had in mind but the fiery brothel keeper and her prostitutes believed otherwise. This was their land, their home and their world of carnal relationships which knew no political boundaries. Powerful feminine resistance takes them on a path of confrontation with the authorities, as they take their last stand.
The ensuing melodrama backed by powerful dialogues and high-voltage confrontations make this a movie to watch. Begum Jaan has all the trappings of a great film, but falls short despite some very powerful performances by a talented star cast.
The movie opens up in contemporary times in Connaught Place in the heart of the nation’s capital, where an ugly incident sets up the tone for the film. The story then shifts back to 1947 and takes us right into a brothel that just happens to fall on the newly crafted Radcliffe Line that divides the country.
Oblivious to the politics of partition, the inmates of the “kotha” carry on business as usual. That is until they are slapped with a notice of eviction. Having enjoyed better times under the patronage of the local Rajaji, they now find themselves caught between reality of partition and the contradiction of their location. The inmates, led by the foul-mouthed but soft-hearted Begum Jaan, decide to resist the eviction and set up a complex interplay among those within and outside the house.
Award-winning director Srijit Mukherji knows his actors and his craft, and this shows up powerfully in Begum Jaan.
His choice of Vidya Balan as Begum Jaan was spot on, as Vidya rises up to a demanding director. She is in a role that probably comes once in a lifetime and she doesn’t disappoint.
Vidya plays the hookah-puffing foul-mouthed brothel keeper who keeps her flock of women with care and discipline, as they all go about their daily business of delivering pleasure. Vidya’s ability to transform into the hard-cut Begum Jaan with natural ease, sets the bar high for other stars to follow.
Gauhar Khan plays Rubina beautifully as her heart reaches out to the universal lover – played by Pitobash. Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo excels in her role as a prostitute with an unfortunate past. Ridheema Tiwary, Mishti, Flora Saini are the other inmates and seem completely at ease in their roles.
Ila Arun as Amma, Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaji and Rajit Kapoor as Ilias, all live up to their reputations as powerful actors. It was a joy to see Chunky Pandey on the screen playing Kabir – a mean and nasty low life.
Despite powerful performances by Vidya Balan and other cast, Begum Jaan misses out the opportunity to be a great film. But only just. It’s certainly a film to go watch but be prepared for some hard tongue-lashing dialogues that might just be a tad uncomfortable for some.
Begum Jaan Music
Anu Malik along with Khayyam have come out with some rich music that sets up the tone for a high octane emotional melodrama. Asha Bhosle’s rendition of ‘Prem Mein Tohre’ once again proves that age is no bar for a timeless voice. Easily the best score of the film. ‘Aazaadiyan’ and ‘Holi Khelein’ are the other songs that stand out for their beautiful lyrics and melody.
Details of songs
Prem Mein Tohre
- Singer(s): Asha Bhosle
- Song duration: 3:58 min
- Singer(s): Sonu Nigam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
- Song duration: 6:41 min
O Re Kaharo
- Singer(s): Kalpana, Patowary, Altamash Faridi
- Song duration: 5:48 min
- Singer(s): Shreya Ghoshal, Anmol Malik
- Song duration: 6:03 min
Prem Mein Tohre (Reprise)
- Singer(s): Kavita Seth
- Song duration: 3:28 min
- Singer(s): Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal
- Song duration: 4:15 min
- Singer(s): Arijit Singh
- Song duration: 5:25 min
Vidya Balan’s powerful play as Begum Jaan, she carries the film quite ably.
The story flow and connectivity is patchy and leaves the viewer confused.
It’s a definite must watch film but not for everyone’s taste.
Begum Jaan rating: