“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. “Time” for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.
The best way to describe the protagonist of this week’s release Begum Jaan would be this quote by Payne.
Set against the backdrop of the Indo-Pak partition in 1947, the film portrays the story of Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan), a sex worker, and how her life takes a drastic turn when she’s asked to vacate her brothel along with all the other women. The reason being a border line dividing the two countries that shall pass right from the location where their brothel is situated.
Refusing to succumb to the demands of the British servants, Begum refuses to leave the place which she treats it as her Aangan. Battle lines are drawn and what follows is an ugly bloodbath.
A remake of the 2015 Bengali film, Rajkahini, Begum Jaan soars in the acting department. Chunky Pandey springs a pleasant surprise as Kabir, who’s employed to eliminate the workers from their home. Menacing, gritty and merciless, Pandey is refreshingly restrained and it’s a delight to watch him in a flesh and blood role, perhaps for the first time. Gauhar Khan and Pallavi Sharda get their moments of intimacy and intrigue too, and both do not disappoint.
Expectedly, it’s Vidya Balan ,who keeps you invested in her performance, even when the film begins to crumble under the heaps of repetition and too much gore. She may be fearless and ferocious, but is equally empathetic. Brining a gamut of emotions to her acting, Balan shows how a fine actor can elevate a film from being a forgettable affair.
However, the second half is replete with ample doses of cruelty, clamor and chaos. With way too many characters thrown in, all with heinous intentions, the screenplay begins to scatter and the film almost derails.
The reason why Begum Jaan successfully reaches its destination is solely because of the leading lady, who shines once again in a film that fades in comparison to the original.
National-Award winning director Srijit Mukherji, who helmed both the films, makes a respectable debut in Hindi Cinema, but is unable to replicate the grip and nerve-racking tension of the Bengali version.
Watch strictly for Vidya Balan.