Cast: Vidya Balan, Guauhar Khan, Ila Arun,
Naseeruddin Shah, Chunky Pandey, Pallavi Sharda, Mishti, Flora
Saini, Ridheema Tiwary, Pitobash, Rajit Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi,
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Producers: Mukesh Bhatt, Vishesh Bhatt
Writers: Srijit Mukherji, Kausar Munir
What's Yay: Performances, Hard-hitting
What's Nay: Half-baked plot that doesn't help
one in connecting the dots in few scenes
Popcorn Refill: Strictly Interval
Iconic Moment: One of the most striking scenes
appear early where Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) keeps slapping Shabham
(Mishti) hard to snap her out of a shocked state.
The story opens with a disturbing incident in Connaught Place,
New Delhi in the year 2016. Cut to, the film rewinds 70 years
back where India is in a midst of facing the bloody aftermath of a
partition post gaining independence. Sir
Cyril Radciffe has been entrusted with the task of
dividing the nation into two.
However this line of partition threatens the existence of a
brothel owned by Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan). Soon, things take an
ugly turn when they are slapped with a notice by the government
which says that the 'kotha' must go away to make way for India
and Pakistan. With no other option left, Begum Jaan and her group
of prostitutes choose the rebellious path to defend the place which
they call their 'home'.
Srijit Mukherji, the man behind the National Award winning
Rajkahini ventures into Bollywood with its Hindi adaptation. He
weaves a tale which mainly focusses on the impact of the Radcliffe
Line on the lives of eleven women situated in a brothel during the
While the concept is quite bold and deserves to be applauded,
what doesn't work for the film is the fact that Srijit majorly
misses out giving us a little backdrop about every character other
than Vidya. Thus, there are instances when you fail to feel for the
character and reach out to him/ her simply because you never 'knew'
them in the first place. The narrative tends to get abrupt and a
bit high on melodrama at times. That's probably why it
falls short of being a piece of cinematic brilliance.
Right from the unibrow to the crude abuses, Vidya Balan
wears Begum Jaan like a second skin. She plays the koel-eyed,
hookah puffing madame who means strict business and doesn't care a
damn about independence and wordly political affairs. For her, her
whorehouse is the palace and she is the reigning queen of the
hookers. She may not mince her words but beneath her tough exterior
lies a caring heart which shows up when instances
permit. Vidya plays her role to perfection and you just can't
miss the intensity of a scene where she mutters a dialogue which
goes, 'Mahina humein ginna aata hai sahab..har baar saala laal
karke jaata hai!
Next comes Pallavi Sharda aka Gulabo, a prostitute with a
traumatic past. The actress too shines in her role and holds
her own when it comes to sharing screen space with
Guauhar Khan as Rubina impresses. Watch out for the scene where
she describes her life to the man she loves! It leaves you
completely stunned even though it is abruptively placed in the
Mishti, Ridheema Tiwary and Flora Saina too essay the role
of brothel inmates and put up a good show. Ira Arun adds
layers to the plot.
Naseeruddin Shah plays a tricky character with shades of a
ruthless predator. We wished we could have got to see more of him
in the film! The track involving Rajit Kapoor and Ashish Vidyarthi
doesn't look convincing.
Pitobash who plays everyone's companion and Guauhar's love
interest holds your attention. Vivek Mushran's Masterji does what
is expected out of him. Unfortunately the twist to his character
towards the end looks forced.
Chunky Pandey suffers from a half-baked role. He starts off as a
cold-blooded, menacing bad guy hired to whisk off Begum Jaan and
her gang from the brothel. But sadly towards the end just ends up
being a mere caricature!
Begum Jaan relies more on building up moments rather than the
written material. Gopu Bhagat's cinematography effortless captures
the camaraderie in Begum Jaan's world.
The first half of the film moves at a sluggish pace but post
interval there are several heart-thumping moments that keep you
invested. Monisha Baldawa and Vivek Mishra should have had a
tighter grip on the editing scissors.
The songs of Begum Jaan are well-placed and help in taking the
story forward. Out of all, 'Aazaadiyan' and 'Holi Khelein' stand
out the most.
Begum Jaan isn't an easy watch. It makes you squirm at the
double standards prevailing in the society. At the same time, it
comforts you with a hope that 'woh subah kabhi toh aayegi'. Watch
it for Vidya Balan whose piercing eyes and firebrand dialogues
gives you ample of goosebump-inducing moments!