Begum Jaan (2017) : Movie Review

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Begum Jaan (2017) : Movie Review

Shudder, shudder!! Never thought Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech could be incorporated in to a laughable ham scene in mainstream bollywood. Srijit Mukherji’s ‘Begum Jaan’ does just that. As the famous speech plays on the radio inside a haveli like brothel, all its lady inmates wait with bated breath. Then, Vivek Mushran (Remember the Subhash Ghai protégé who once sang ilu ilu), a regular to that place, screams loudly “AZAAADI” shattering your ear drums. He then, proceeds to explain the ladies that India has attained freedom from Angrez log and they all break in to a jig lighting firecrackers. [ Read: The Fate of the Furious (2017) : Movie Review ]

Begum Jaan Movie Review

Begum Jaan is filled with many such scenes of highly OTT nauseating melodrama. Sample this – In 2016, an old lady strips bare in front of two goons attempting to rape a woman on the streets of Delhi with the National flag in background. The goons are shamed and run away. Way back in 1947, the same old lady in her childhood had stripped naked in front of a police officer (Rajesh Sharma) who was coming forward in his undies to rape her mom. After seeing the little girl undress, he pukes and cries loudly while putting back his trousers.

Another Subhash Ghai “find” Mishti (from Kaanchi re Kaanchi) is brought to the haveli of Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) after a traumatic attack by her kin. She is speechless by shock and the Begum slaps her hard some 10 – 12 times in succession. It plays out like those ham scenes Sajid Khan would show us in his 90’s tv show. By the way, Mishti then cries loudly to leave you – the viewer speechless with shock. Later, she is sold to the kingdom Rajaji (Naseerudin Shah in a thankless cameo) by the same Begum Jaan even as he claims that he cannot “perform” without music playing in the background. So, Begum herself, kinkily sits in the room and sings a song for him as he is doing his stuff. Yucks!!!!  [ Read: Naam Shabana (2017) : Movie Review

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Writer- director Srijit Mukherji remaking his own Bengali film (which I hear was critically acclaimed and commercially successful) goes horribly wrong with his hindi version. At concept level too, the film is a a problem. Begum Jaan, owner of a brothel and mother to all her girls, is told to evict her ‘Kotha’ after it falls right in center of the Radcliffe line which demarcated the Indo Pak border. She refuses to budge…

What would logically follow in this situation is her forced eviction at gunpoint. Not here! Two senior officials from the newly formed states along with a dozen cops holding rifles in hand run helter-skelter like rats after Begum and her girls asks them to buzz off.

Next, an old haggard looking killer in a ganji and dirty chaddi is recruited to complete the job. Chunky Pandey plays this disgusting man on screen.  [ Read: Sairat (2016) [Musical Romantic Drama] : Movie Review ]

Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapur, filmed only in half profiles for reasons unknown, are members of the Indian National Congress and Muslim league, respectively. They sit down together in a tent and boringly, discuss the aftermath of partition. At the end of the film, one of them shoots himself in his mouth while the other rolls on the floor crying loudly under alcohol influence. Bizzare!!!!

Any positives, you may ask? Well, Vidya Balan is powerful in the titular role even though she doesn’t come close to Shabana Azmi in ‘Mandi’ (1983) and Smita Patil in ‘Mirch Masala’ (1987) – two films this one relies heavily for inspiration. Gauahar Khan leaves an impression in role of a prostitute in love with her pimp and Pallavi Sharda nails her character of Gulaabo, a girl who dreams of a respectable marital life.  [ Read: Phillauri (2017) : Movie Review ]

The girls are sincere no doubt, but Begum Jaan fails to do them justice. “Entertainment, entertainment and entertainment” were Vidya Balan’s famous words in her past hit. This one lacks just that!!!!

Begum Jaan | Official Trailer | Vidya Balan | Srijit Mukherji

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Sumeet Nadkarni
I am a Chartered Accountant by Profession and a self styled film critic by passion.