Dedicating a film to Manto and then going wrong about both prostitution and partition is something that won’t work…
No matter how good the performances are, underwritten films never see the light of the day. Begum Jaan is such a film.
The film is a remake of the 2015 Bengali film Rajkahini with some changes, that didn’t really work for the film. Since I’ve watched both the films, I will not compare and tell you which is better than the other, but I think making an old woman strip in front of the national flag with patriotic background music is not something that should have been added. The film follows the life of Begum Jaan who is a kothe wali and has some ten girls under her. The backdrop is the Partition of India dividing one nation into two sects. Now, a border has to be carved out and this goes through Begum Jaan’s kotha, oops sorry, home. Now this woman is adamant about not moving from here. Why? Nahi pata.
The film has a bunch of talented actors – Ira Dubey, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapoor and Vidya Balan herself but they’re all underwritten.
Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor play representatives of the INC and Muslim league respectively and director Srijit Mukherjee directs them in a very weird way. For closeup shots, he captures only half of their face. Why? Nahi pata. Probably he wanted to show the division between people as Hindus and Muslims but no. It’s just weird and creepy too.
Among the other girls, only Pallavi Sharda, Gauhar Khan and Ira Dubey are noticeable. Iska matlab yeh Nahi hai ki bahut acha kaam kia hai in logo ne. Bilkul Nahi. Though, these women are good, but what can they do after a point? Oh there is Mishti too. (Kanchi re Kanchi) This girl is still in shock for debuting with Subhash Ghai’s Kanchi so that’s why she’s just there. Kuch nahi karti hai yeh.
Finally, there’s Vidya Balan. Over the years, Balan has given us performances that probably no one could have done, but with her recent choices of Ghanchakkar, Humari Adhuri Kahani and now Begum Jaan, she’s not at par with her own self. Just last year we saw the brilliance of Balan in Kahaani 2 but now-
Though her performance is top notch, and her character is the best written character, but is a limited character. Through Begum Jaan Balan proves that she hasn’t lost her acting chops at all, but she can’t do much with it because the writing doesn’t allow her to.
Now I have a big problem with the depiction of the partition of India. I’ve been a History student and I’ve studied the roots of the British Raj and the Partition. Begum Jaan tells us nothing about it except the fact that “nakshe ke hisaab se yaha se ek taar jaegi aur Hindustan ka batwara hoga”. And it also tells us about the riots happening in Delhi, Amritsar and Allahabad, about Kashmir and Hyderabad having a choice to join any of the two new countries or remain independent, about Hindus being safe in India and Muslims in Pakistan, but that’s all. And all of this is told to us, not shown.
Though some of the dialogues are good, and almost all of them are given to Vidya Balan the rest are just bleh. Ki matlab aap sochne lag jaoge ki bola toh bola Kya aur kyu. At a point, Pallavi Sharda says, “Hum jaiso ke shauhar nahi hote, magar betiyan hoti hai” Kya?
And I think this film is also about feminism, but everywhere it’s just degrading women. Insult kar di aurton ki. Maybe at that time this was the scenario but aaj ke zamane mei itni insult karoge, after giving us a strong, powerful protagonist, toh Nahi chalega. Begum Jaan knows her way through life, but at a point, she says, “Yeh desh Hindu, Mussalman ya Angrez, jiska bhi ho, hoga toh mardo ka hi.”
Also, I know absolutely nothing about any character. Kaha se aae hai, kaha jaa rahe hai, Kuch Nahi pata. Bataya hi nahi.
I have a lot to say about this film, but I am running short of time. So all in all, if you want to watch Begum Jaan, I would suggest against it because nothing in the film is worth your time, except Vidya Balan, but to what extent?
If I had to rate the film, a 5th grade textbook tells you more about the Partition than Begum Jaan does.