Today the most awaited movie of Vidya Balan got released. Begum Jaan has been directed by Srijit Mukherjee produced by Mukesh Bhatt, Vishesh Bhatt and Play Entertainment. The film is co-produced by Sakshi Bhatt and Shree Venkatesh Films with executive producer Kumkum Saigal. The cinematography is done by Gopi Bhagat. Lyrics, Additional screenplay and dialogues have been penned by Kausar Munir and Rahat Indori.The cast of the flick includes Vidya Balan as Begum Jaan,Ila Arun as Amma,Gauahar Khan as Rubina,Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo, Priyanka Setia as Jameela,Ridheema Tiwary as Amba, Flora Saini as Maina, Raviza Chauhan as Lata, Poonam Rajput as Rani ,Mishti (Indrani Chakraborty)as Shabnam, Gracy Goswami as Laadli, Pitobash Tripathy as Surjeet, Sumit Nijhawan as Salim Mirza, Ashish Vidyarthi as Harshvardhan, Chunky Pandey as Kabir, Rajit Kapoor as Ilias, Vivek Mushran as Master,Rajesh Sharma as Shyam, Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaji, Ashok Dhanuka as SardarVallabhbhai Patel ,Sanjay Gurubaxani as Jawaharlal Nehru, Dicky Banerjee as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Patrick Eyre as Louis Mountbatten, Steve Burroughs as HastingsIsmay,Raja Biswas as Cyril Radcliffe.
This story set is during that particular historical phase when the country was being divided into India and Pakistan, and that left millions of our countrymen deeply affected and changed their lives forever. Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) a self appointed matriarch for a bunch of sex workers is the central character of the film.
The spacious kotha occupied with the girls interestingly turns out to be newly set border line between India and Pakistan. The challenge for Begum and her girls is not only to battle for the hypocrisy of patriarchy, but also to fight for survival as they face the danger of being evacuated.
Begum has a loyal bunch with her which includes all of her girls barring one (Pallavi Sharda). A burly guard (Sumeet Nijhowan), a lovable pimp (Pitobash Tripathy) and an old woman (Illa Arun), try to help her tide the crisis that they suddenly find themselves in.
Vidya Balan is Begam Jaan dives into her character with the fierceness and aggression that her kohl rimmed eyes display. Balan plays this brusque, impossibly cynical madame of a brothel with a lot of conviction and confidence. But one wishes her talent was used in a better film.
While the story is unique and interesting (written by Srijit Mukherjee, the director of the film), the movie has a bunch of good actors, it is the direction that falters at several points. Instead of exercising restraint as a film of this kind is begging for, the narrative goes overboard with melodrama and tackiness.
Begum Jaan ultimately falls short because of an inconsistent story line and flawed screenplay. The actors are seen celebrating India’s independence in one scene and soon after, the festival of Holi. In another scene the characters are seen getting drenched and in the next, completely dry. The climax is unnecessarily loud and melodramatic and some of the scenes make you cringe.
The intentions are good. But too much is stuffed in two hours’ time. It’s crisper than the original film which Mukherji in an interview had stated contained a lot of ‘cinematic fat’ but the end result appears hastily put together.
Mukherji’s Bengali films have always had the best music but unfortunately Anu Malik’s songs in Begum Jaan do not leave a lasting impression either.
The film ultimately works only for its actors but most do not get to flex their talent in a script that is trying to tell too many things at the same time.