Director: Srijit Mukherji
Cast: Vidya Balan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapoor, Gauhar Khan, Ila Arun
Begum Jaan falls short of its storytelling due to the lack of essence in direction. It had everything at hand: a rebellious owner of a brothel and other women, their daily lives and the brave fight they put up against the government officials. Yet, all the aspects of cinema such as story, direction, screenplay fail to come together as a strong product and therefore, Begum Jaan becomes a very dissatisfying experience.
Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) is the madam of a brothel, set in post independence era. She is bold, dominating and takes care of all the business and operation of the brothel pretty much on her own. After India gets freedom, the partition between India and Pakistan start happening but the border between these two countries cannot be built while Begum Jaan’s brothel is still there. So, the government orders her to evict the place. Begum Jaan refuses to do so and puts up a brave fight against them and tries to protect her house.
The story of Begum Jaan has all the ingredients that will make it an engrossing watch but Srijit Mukherji’s direction couldn’t manage to make it a gripping one. The film only has a few moments which are appreciable but majority of storytelling is very dull. The daily operations of brothel, their lives, silly fights and fun together are all necessary for the movie but the way they are told by the director is tedious.
Image Source: Vishesh Films
The screenplay was a vital part of Begum Jaan as the face-off between her and government, her bold living can only be narrated and witnessed through powerful dialogues, which were lacking big time in the film. Most of the conversations between the prostitutes were so noisy that it blew away the essence of their punches. These small things could have made a big difference to the storytelling had Srijit paid a detailed attention to them.
More than Begum Jaan’s story, the narrative of Harshvardhan (Ashish Vidyarthi) and Ilias (Rajit Kapoor) was better. It at least gave some stability to the film. I understand Srijit’s method of showing Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor’s faces in halves to symbolize the partition but he overdid it. Doing it subtly is the best way for that.
The powerful performer Vidya Balan has delivered a good portrayal of Begum Jaan. Of course, this is not one of her best performances because her best actually becomes a benchmark in the industry. She looked bold and highly aggressive, especially with the other prostitutes but overall, the performance doesn’t reach the peak as you would have expected from Vidya. Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor were brilliant who show the Hindu-Msulim angle very well. Rest of the cast gave decent performances but there were very few memorable scenes for them.
Begum Jaan collapses with its flawed direction. The film only has a few good moments and majorly its storytelling lacks energy and proper flow. Srijit Mukherji could have done much better with the story, especially when Vidya Balan is in the lead.