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The over dramatic mess hampers Vidya Balan’s acting abilities
Movie – Begum Jaan
Star cast – Vidya Balan, Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Pitobash, Chunky Pandey and Naseeruddin Shah
Director – Srijit Mukherji,
Studio – Vishesh Films
Rating – 2.0
In the year 1947, the aforementioned Radcliffe, who actually didn’t have much clue about the country’s topography, and drew a border which led to a lot of bloodshed on both sides. One unfortunate victim of this line was Begum Jaan’s kotha that was situated in Punjab, far away from the villages. Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) is the head of the 11 sex workers that live there, who is like their mother and disciplinarian at the same time. The kotha is under the patronage of the local Maharaja (Naseeruddin Shah), which gives Begum Jaan the gumption to take on even the police. So when the administrators from both India and Pakistan (Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor) ask her to evict the kotha, she stubbornly refuses to do so. When she continues to reject their notices and even threatens, the administrators resort to an extremely nefarious method to get her and her coterie removed, that end up disastrously for all involved.
It is a real bold performance from the actress, after The Dirty Picture, and Vidya Balan has let go of her inhibitions to get into the skin of the character. Though the movie lets her scream, shout and abuse a lot, it is in the quieter moments that Vidya shines the best. Check out that scene where she mollifies the king or her smiling acceptance of her final fate – that’s the class of her performance. Among the ensemble cast, Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Vivek Mushran and Chunky Pandey (what an evil makeover!) stand out. Naseeruddin Shah is very effective in his two-scene cameo, especially the scene where he places a creepy request to Begum Jaan. Some of the dialogues hit right at the sweet spot, while Anu Malik’s score is a highlight, the Prem Mein Tohre song being creme de la creme. However, the placement of the songs leaves a lot to be desired.
Speaking of shock value, I haven’t seen the Bengali version so don’t know how bold it is and whether the script justifies the boldness. But here, the bold elements are too in-your-face and unnecessary. There is a scene between Gauahar Khan and Pitobash, where she takes his hand and puts it on her private parts, while lecturing him about their significance. The scene may be well-intentioned, but it was quite forced and actually inserted between a far more interesting scene. The violent climax, save for a touching final moment for the girls, is quite less effective despite the bloodshed. However, the aftermath involving the characters of Rajit Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi, and Rajesh Sharma will make you cringe in embarrassment.
Begum Jaan held a lot of promise for me after that scintillating trailer. However, the movie failed to replicate the trailer’s tight framework, and instead, makes an overdramatic mess of such an important chapter in our history. It’s a pity since Vidya Balan is really good here, and the premise looks promising on paper. Avoid Begum Jaan, unless you have a thing for overdramatic fare