Directed by Srijit Mukherji, Begum Jaan is a top-to-bottom remake of “RajKahini” which was also directed by him. Begum Jaan perfectly showcases the plight of the commoners during the partition of India, 1947. The movie starts with a powerful narration which gives a rough picture of a brothel situated on the lands of the questionable Indian territory of Punjab, which is to be divided post the making of a new country…, Pakistan. The kings, administrators and localites visit this pleasure-seeking house, and Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) is the undisputed owner of this very grand “kotha” (as they call it). Like every high-earning prostitute, Begum Jaan has her patron in the local king of that area (Naseeruddin Shah) and he is very loyal to her. The story takes a U-turn when India gets independent and a low eyes-sighted old man, Sir Cyril Radcliffe plans to draw the international boundary dividing India and Pakistan forever. This Radcliffe line will be piercing into this very brothel, and the administrators visit Begum to talk about it. Begum Jaan refuse to vacate her “palace” where she has spent her entire life, and she decides to fight back. Her entire flock of prostitutes second her opinion and swears to save their house. Begum’s motto is “My Body, My House, My Rules” and she abides by that till the end. The communal violence tenses the whole area where more than 14 million people had to displace from their own lands. But Begum Jaan leaves no stone unturned in dividing her house into India and Pakistan. Begum Jaan definitely has its own share of shining moments, especially with Vidya Balan giving her par-excellence performance in the film. The movie has given everything which is needed for a classic period film and you all will be stunned to know the story (if you haven’t seen the original ‘Rajkahini’ of course!). Srijit sure knows what to get from the film and how to portray the climax in a classy way. The various conversations between Begum and the administrators and others will give you goosebumps. Yes, you will literally memorize some of the hard-core dialogues. All in all, the movie is a must watch for the die-hard Vidya fans, and also who loves watching art films!

Aditi Gupta
The Times of India

It’s a good period and story to revisit because even 70-years after Partition, anything around it still piques interest. Then again, here the narrative deals less with the horror of the divide and serves more as an ode to the spiritedness of Begum; widowed in her childhood and sold to a brothel. Also, Mukherji is revisiting his Bengali film Rajkahini(2015). Vidya invests fully in Begum and her dialogue-baazi (a lot of which is raunchy) will get ceetis. Begum’s spunk is infectious though. She resembles a Bengal tigress whether she is defending her body or boundaries. However, trying to retell her virtues through various historical avatars in animation, is far too indulgent. Also conversations between officials of the INC and Muslim League, or for that matter between other cardboard cutouts, is superficial. The cinematographer’s effort to capture the Indo-Pak divide with close-ups in half frames, seems amiss. The Holi number is peppy with striking visuals. Otherwise having the 11 women in one frame becomes nothing but a screech-fest. Having Vidya in a film is an asset though. She is an audacious actor, who merits an extra half star for her ability to shoulder a film.

Meena Iyer
Begum Jaan
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