Review of the movie ‘BEGUM JAAN’ by ‘Divya Solgama’
Our country is blessed with various languages along with different traditions and cultures. These various diversions also mark different types of regional films, expanding the horizon for all cinema lovers. There was a time when Bengali and Tamil films were remade on a regular basis. With the changing times we did witness remakes of Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi films which tried to capture the commercially successful films as well as critically acclaimed ones. There were some remakes which were grand and much better than the original, while some were frame to frame shameless copies along with many other films which got lost in the translation. Few filmmakers like V.Shantaram, K.Balachander, Mani Ratnam, K.Bhagyaraj, Priyadarshan, Mahesh Manjerekar, K. Raghavendra Rao, Satyen Bose, Asit Sen and others managed to do right justice to their regional films when they remade them into Hindi. The latest to join this niche group is Srijit Mukherji who is known for some of his fantastic Bengali films like ‘Autograph’, ‘Jaatishwar’ and few more including ‘Rajkahini’ starring Rituparna Sengupta. Srijit comes up with a Hindi adaptation of ‘Rajkahini’ in the form of ‘Begum Jaan’ starring Vidya Balan. So, let’s find out whether ‘Begum Jaan’ will manage to enhance the impact of ‘Rajkahini’ or might end up being yet another plain remake which gets lost in the translation.
‘Begum Jaan’ is a story set post Indian independence. It’s a story of a brothel which is run by Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan), who is known for her aggressive and independent behavior. All the prostitutes (Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Priyanka Setia, Flora Saini, Ridheema Tiwary, Indrani Chakraborty and others) in that brothel are protected and taken care by Begum Jaan in a love and hate type of relationship. One day two big officers (Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor) from Indian and Pakistan government comes up with an official order stating that the border line of India-Pakistan has to go through Begum Jaan’s brothel. She and her associates will have to vacate the brothel as a check post is planned at the same place. This infuriates Begum Jaan as she decides not to vacate her place. What happens next is what the entire film is all about.
Screenplay & Technical Details:
The story is interesting and has strong layers attached to it. The whole set up of the movie is unique and different. Though, one cannot avoid having strong reminderance of Shyam Bengal’s classic ‘Mandi’. The set up and one liner plot seem quite similar but of course the whole post-independence era track sets ‘Begum Jaan’ different in its own way. The movie begins with the enchanting voice of Amitabh Bachchan trying to establish the plot and the scenario. There are many fantastic scenes related to fine performances by Vidya, Pallavi, Gauhar and Chunky Pandey. Scenes such as Vidya Balan slapping Indrani Chakraborty, Vidya’s frustration over Independence, Gauahar explaining the meaning of love to Pitobash Tripathy, Vidya’ fiery reply to Ashish and Rajit, Naseeruddin Shah threatening Vidya, Chunky’s introduction part and a few more are one of the boldest, finest and hard-hitting scenes seen in our Hindi cinema. These scenes on their own are far ahead than the whole screenplay and the treatment of the film. It also portrays us the potential ‘Begum Jaan’ movie could have had if only the screenplay was in its right place. The first half is totally cluttered with many abrupt and unwanted scenes. The writers try hard to establish the details related to Vidya and her associates, but fails miserably due to unwanted tracks and super lengthy scenes between Ashish and Rajit. The whole connect with these characters is missing as the writers fail to enhance their characters. Ashish and Rajit conversational scenes are badly shot and seems repetitive after a while. Vivek Mushran’s track was unwanted and failed to connect with the screenplay of the film. The finale fight is engaging as well as entertaining. It’s just that the culmination in the end ruins everything as the whole point of the film seemed diluted. It’s like everything is happening, but without any connect or right purpose. You can feel the misery or pain of some characters, but cannot connect at all with the whole plot of the film. None of the actions in the movie are justified nor convincing. The stripping scene by the small girl might shock you, but at the same time wonder about its placement. There are many abrupt scenes which are wrongly placed in the movie. Dialogues are bold and powerful. The cinematography is not that great and at times seemed a bit tacky. Though, the historic tales related to Vidya are visually appealing.
The music by Anu Malik is something different and has a few great songs. ‘Prem Mein Tohre’ by Asha Bhosle and later by Kavita Seth is mesmerizing. ‘Aazaadiyan’ by Sonu Nigam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan followed by a recreated version of ‘Who Subah’ by Arijit and Shreya are melodious and goes well with the flow of the film. The other songs unwanted. Background music is jarring.
Director Srijit Mukherji comes up with a bold, daring and power packed performance based film. He highly succeeds in extracting some fine performance from his lead actors. It’s just that the weak writing and lack of connectivity ruins the impact of the film. ‘Rajkahini’ was a longer film in comparison to ‘Begum Jaan’ but has right ingredients required for this film. In order to shorten the film, the whole charm of the movie goes missing. The movie could have been a great film, if only the screenplay and narrative was in its right place.
Vidya Balan gives one more outstanding performance. The rage and the caring in her face enhances her character. Her dialogues are like a fireball and hits you at the right spot. Gauahar Khan has a small role, but in a couple of scenes she displays her fine performance with total ease. Pallavi Sharda looks pretty and delivers a good performance. Chunky Pandey looks menacing and gets his villainous role perfectly. Ashish Vidhayarthi and Rajit Kapoor have a meaty role which gets diluted in the second half. Vivek Mushran and Naseeruddin Shah are wasted. Pitobash Tripathy is good in his part. Rajesh Sharma hams to the fullest. Ila Arun, Priyanka Setia, Ridheema Tiwary, Flora Saini, Raviza Chauhan, Poonam Rajput, Indrani Chakraborty, Gracy Goswami and Sumit Nijhawan lends good support.
So on an overall basis ‘Begum Jaan’ is a parade of fine performances which gets highly ruined by its weak screenplay and at times boring narrative.
Rating – 3/5 [Source – Bollywood Times]