“Aang loota sakte hai,Aangan nahi”; this one line gives away the entire plot of this period drama – Begum Jaan.
Year 1947, India attains freedom but someone else loses her freedom to live in her own house. India is divided into 3 parts with Radcliff line-of-partition passing right through the centre of Madam, Vidya Balan’s brothel. Her fearless retaliation and high-pitched rebellion to save her dignity, and her dhanda against the mighty government officials of both India and Pakistan forms the basic storyline of BEGUM JAAN.
Obviously, BEGUM JAAN is not your average dose of weekend fun.
It comes with a social message on, what else but feminism and it also intends to run around with a ‘me too’ tag in a super crowded scene of ‘women-centric’ films.
With an ace like Vidya Balan on board, director, Srijit Mukherjee had a potential winner in hand. But still, to be on a safer side, he has gone in for the redux of his self-directed film, ’RAJKAHINI’ with necessary cut – copy – paste technique. Of course, original curse-laden sequences and hard-hitting dialogues are tapered down to the liking of a ‘sanskari’ censor board; but in the bargain, film loses its chutzpah.
Still, a robust Vidya bulldozes her way and delivers an intense performance – as always.
She breathes fire and showers venom over anybody and everybody who dares to cross her path. Her power lies in servicing the King (Naseerudin Shah) and his men which give her the authority to wield formidable clout in return.
Is this called women empowerment, Shrijit ???
Anyways, but when nothing ‘works’ against the eviction officials, our Madam becomes an avatar of Ma Kali, Ma Durga, Jhansi ki Rani and Razia Sultan. All this to save her extended family of 11 nautch girls. To save her temple of ‘body worship and save her ‘badnam kothi’ from the same commoners and officers who have spent many nights inside Begum’s temple.
Srijit may be an accomplished director but somehow the film does not hit you with the same force it was made with.
Sensitive subject like prostitution and partition need to be dealt with subtlety and restraint but all we get is over glamorised and glossed up going ons with feverish chest thumping and manic foot stamping.
Mechanical bedroom workouts and skimpily clad call girls are so yesterday and uninteresting. Mercifully, story of prostitutes does not end up into a game of titillation and maintains a safe distance from cheap vulgarity. But Srijit’s pitiable attempt of turning serious cinema into a commercial farce leaves him neither with critical acclaims nor with monitory gains. Indeed a wasted opportunity.
Versatile Vidya was my sole motive of watching BEGUM JAAN.
I call her a lady-Amitabh Bacchan of Bollywood who always rises above the script and direction however imperfect or perfect they are. Her long and layered dresses, flowing tresses with steady gaze of kohl-rimmed eyes makes for a perfect ‘Madam’ portrayal.
But her raunchy body language and uncouth talk is strictly for the front benchers only. Infact her whistle-blowing dialogues almost wait for an applause. Wish she was allowed to underplay her character rather than getting into screaming and screeching match.
Our mother hen has a flock of bold and beautiful chicks whom she takes pride in.
Out of all, Gauhar Khan and Pallavi Sharda have done a decent job and rest of the gang (painfully thin , strutting in and out like models) just fill up the screen but are desperately trying to outdo each other…period.
On plus side, BEGUM JAAN boasts of a bevy of theatre actors without whom the film would have sunk badly.
Investing in calibre actors for even sundry characters is a welcome change. Here, I must write about a whimsical character of Chunky Pandey who has absolutely bowled us over in a not-very-lengthy-but-significant role.
On technical front, DOP needs to be applauded for presenting India of 1950’s in a beautiful light. Warm frames with deep earthy colours in the shades of red, brown, green are feast for our eyes.
Music score does not score much…save an average Arjit Singh song.