Too much of melodrama

Begum Jaan

Genre: Drama

Director: Srijit Mukherji

Cast: Vidya Balan, Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Ila Arun, Pitobash Tripathy, Chunky Pandey, Naseeruddin Shah

Being screened at  QFX Cinemas

Kathmandu

Women were/are never free and safe, be it some seven decades ago when India became free or modern-day Delhi — while trying to deliver this message to his audience, Srijit Mukherji tells the story of a woman who refused to give away her freedom though it would cost her her life through Begum Jaan.

Set during the Partition of India, the remake of Bengali film Rajkahini (2015), has addressed an interesting issue, but the overtly melodramatic film is not able to make much of an impact.

The main plot is clear — after the boundary demarcation line was made by Cyril Radcliff between India and Pakistan upon the Partition of India, politicians Hariprasad (Ashish Vidyarthi) and Illias (Rajit Kapur) representing their respective governments (India and Pakistan) are entrusted with the task of fencing the border. Their work is affected as Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan), owner of the brothel positioned on the border, refuses to leave the premises. And the film is mainly about Begum Jaan and her girls’ fight to save their space.

Despite the clear main plot, there is too much happening in the film, making it melodramatic and messy. Some of the sub-plots could have been toned down or even avoided completely as they do not make much impact — like Amma (Ila Arun) narrating brave women’s stories to a young girl, moments between Hariprasad and Illias, some bonding scenes between the girls of brothels. Rather, one would want to know more about the characters’ background, which the film lacks.

The flawed screenplay and over-the-top climax add to this, and you won’t feel for the characters despite the film addressing a very sensitive issue.

The comparatively well-written character is of Begum Jaan — the film somewhat tells her background. She doesn’t want to leave her ‘home’ where she ‘rules’ and it is understandable; but her willingness to give up everything for

that home, sounds quite unconvincing with regards to her character development.

Yet, Balan boldly immerses herself in the role of this stubborn and sharp Begum Jaan. She exudes raw yet authoritative vibes through her intense gaze, swearing, smoking hookah, lying flat on the bed while someone is massaging her back. But she at times seems to be overdoing her part, making audience feel that she

is preaching.

As for the supporting cast, Gauahar Khan as Rubina, Pitobash Tripathy as Surjeet, and Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo make an impact. And you will not forget Chunky Pandey in the role of Kabir — he is cold blooded, brutal and true evil.

Naseeruddin Shah has done fine job in whatever role he plays.

Certain scenes are moving — like Begum slapping Shabnam (Mishti) to help her ‘live her life’ and later on preparing the same girl for the king. These scenes have been captured brilliantly.

But Anu Malik’s music does not make a lasting impression.