Begum Jaan movie review: Vidya Balan tries to invest some feeling into her role which soon turns clichéd

Begum Jaan movie review: The climax is full of fire and faux brimstone and lots of speechifying, as the ladies of easy virtue become a gun-toting ‘fauj’.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: April 14, 2017 11:08 am
Begum Jaan movie review, Begum Jaan review, Begum Jaan, Begum Jaan movie, Begum Jaan film, Vidya Balan, Vidya Balan Begum Jaan, Begum Jaan movie review: The movie could have been an impactful drama full of memorable characters, led by its leading lady, Vidya Balan.

Begum Jaan movie cast:Vidya Balan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapur, Gauahar Khan, Rajesh Sharma, Pitobash Tripathy, Vivek Mushran, Chunky Pandey, Naseerudin Shah, Pallavi Sharda, Ila Arun
Begum Jaan movie director: Srijit Mukherji
Begum Jaan star rating: 1.5 stars

The story of the bloody birth of India and Pakistan is so inherently full of drama that any telling of any part of it needs a great deal of skilled restraint.That crucial thing is thrown to the winds in ‘Begum Jaan’, based on ‘Rajkahini’, Srijit Mukherji’s Bangla film. I haven’t seen the original, but this, meant to be a faithful remake, climbs to a high-pitched melodramatic perch, and progresses in episodic lurches, never coming down.

Which is a pity because ‘Begum Jaan’ could have been an impactful drama full of memorable characters, led by its leading lady, Vidya Balan. Dressed in flowing robes, eyes lined with kohl, puffing on a hookah, lording it over her ladies, pardon the pun, Balan plays a madam who runs a brothel, slam bang in the midst of all the action.

In the tumultuous days that lead up to the Partition, the location of the ‘kotha’ becomes an ironic inflection point : the house where women sell their flesh without checking religion and caste is about to be divided, the line drawn by the British cleaving it down the middle.

The women, who live with an old ‘dai’-like white-sari clad figure  (Arun), a burly Pathan guard, and a jovial fellow (Tripathy, one of the better things in the film) who is everyone’s companion and one woman’s ( Khan) true love, turn fierce protectors of their turf. Just like the more ‘respectable’ citizens around them, they do not want their house divided.


Many elements in ‘Begum Jaan’ remind you of older, better films. The whole concept of a brothel run by a crude, foul-mouthed feisty madam appears to have been lifted from Shyam Benegals excellent ‘Mandi’. The ecosystem of that brothel and this one is similar too, but that one we believed in : this looks all dressed up for the next shot.

The casual cruelty of those in power, even if receding, exercised especially over vulnerable women ( Naseer’s increasingly weak ‘raja’ who is both patron and ruthless predator) is so much like Ketan Mehta’s classic ‘Mirch Masala’. Naseer was in both ‘Mandi’ and ‘Mirch Masala’, both of which redefined gender politics in the way they outlined the interplay between the sexes– men, women and others– and the strong and the meek : time to pull them out for a revisit.

Also read |Begum Jaan box office prediction: Vidya Balan film to face competition from Fast and Furious 8. Will word of mouth help?

There’s a great deal of stiltedness and awkward dialogue between Kapur and Vidyarthi, who play, respectively, the Muslim and Hindu officials overseeing the drawing of the line, their truncated faces peering at us from the sides of the screen : at first I thought there was something wrong with the projection, and then realized it was deliberate. It may have been done perhaps to emphasise the divide between two people, two religions, but as a device, it is embarrassingly clunky.

A still from the film.

The only one who seems to be totally in synch with the jerky heightened silliness of the enterprise is Chunky Pandey who plays a creepy bad guy, hired to get rid of the pesky prostitutes : if they won’t go quietly, they will have to be forced out.

A plot that could have turned into a powerful allegory – you divide people at your peril, for tragic temporary fixes and zero lasting gains–is run aground. And the climax is full of fire and faux brimstone and lots of loud speechifying, the ladies of easy virtue turning into a gun-toting ‘fauj’, before invoking a certain Rajasthani ‘rani’ who is currently the subject of a film with a troubled trajectory.

Such a waste of a talented bunch of actors. And of Balan, who tries hard to invest some feeling into a role which turns into a cliché the moment the film opens.

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  1. M
    megha narayan
    Apr 18, 2017 at 3:13 pm
    vidya mam rocked!... no one can be xpctd of doing ds vd such perfection. luvd ur each dailogue., luv u nd abt d movie chunky Pandey tak ur eye vd hs acting!..agree der r sum momnts whn movie swips u dwn bt overall its a treat to watch.if any of u hate vidya mam i suggest u to watch movie once.nd decide.,,she iz one of d lady who know how to act. gonna rate it 3(for vidya mam) 2 5
    1. M
      Muhammad Luqman
      Apr 18, 2017 at 9:06 am
      Mukherji packs too much into this narrative with multiple secondary characters and their back-stories. The violent incidents and constant swearing come at you so often, you turn slightly numb.I’m going with a generous two out of five for Begum Jaan . There is a strong feminist statement here, but unfortunately, it’s drowned out by all the noise.
      1. N
        Apr 16, 2017 at 6:30 pm
        totally loved the film. Gender and par ion and uality. Raw. In your face. Po r and not parallel cinema. Exceptional roles pla . The reality was brutal , what is finesse but a sophisticated purdah of those with cultural capital
        1. S
          Apr 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm
          1. K
            Apr 16, 2017 at 11:17 am
            This reviewer gave 2 stars to Dhanak which went on win the National Award. This says a lot about the credibility of this good-for-nothing critic. Ignore her reviews.
            1. J
              Apr 16, 2017 at 12:08 am
              Wow! the nice movie really really a really nice movie.
              1. R
                Apr 15, 2017 at 8:19 pm
                Good movie. Must watch
                1. S
                  Apr 15, 2017 at 5:25 pm
                  Looks like the critic is in a real habit of reviewing films like Kya look hai hum and Happy New Year.... Obviously this movie will not be as per the expected parameters. The Bengali version bagged a national award and the same director remade this in Hindi... After watching both I felt this was one of a very few good remakes made by Bollywood.... Clearly this was a case of reviewing movies based on production houses..
                  1. A
                    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm
                    Seeing this movie is waste of money . Hopeless movie
                    1. S
                      sangeeta ramanuj
                      Apr 15, 2017 at 11:59 am
                      u r right akhand pratap singh,,, these critics are a bunch of fools just like our sensor board and oh yes how can i forgot our award jury,,,,,,, bloody stupid people . they give award to akshay kumar ..... and not amir,,,, theAAMIR KHAAN,,, for THE DANGAL........ waahiyaat priyadarshan..... and i havent seen this movie yet but i gave 5 rates for the trailer.... vidya balan is called actress not heroine ,,,,, who knows acting
                      1. S
                        Apr 14, 2017 at 10:08 pm
                        Indian Express,after reading the review I seriously fail to understand which part of the plot or the cinematography was weak. You blame the movie being a copied version of older films but did you mention the strong message which the movie carries? Coming to the acting part: you found only Tripathy and Kabir's character worth loving, were you asleep or just ignorant when the w bunch of female actors, including Vidya, enacted the bold script so smoothly? If you are posting reviews on behalf of a news publication, please be a little unbiased.
                        1. M
                          manish joshi
                          Apr 14, 2017 at 10:03 pm
                          The review is biased . Strong female characters besides other good artists in the movie and yes it is melodramatic and it has to be. So you like a 20 year old heroine with a 50 year old Khans or Kumars and giving them 4 stars. What do you want? Please get a life or improve yourself . Plz
                          1. P
                            Apr 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm
                            I have not seen Begum Jaan. I have seen Rajkahini, which was a powerful and brilliant film. The review is disappointing because it cannot capture the spirit of the film although the reviewer is clever enough to hint at it. Yes, it is a film which is meant to be allegorical, perhaps even magic realist, clearly loud, dramatic, and stylized, and NOT a realistic, detailed, historical account of the Par ion. The narrative techniques of the film need to be evaluated on those grounds. And Srijit scores very well with his thoughtful presentation in evoking the affect of par ion. On the other hand, Bollywood reviewers need to be a little more educated to look beyond realism and subtlety as the only means of narrating good stories. The only reason that I can see why this film should not work very well is the language problem--the script is in Hindi, which might not translate the original vigour of Bengali.
                            1. P
                              Apr 14, 2017 at 5:35 pm
                              I haven't read a more biased review. Acting is super and each character be it Salim or Sujit or rubina or even ladlee reach out to the audience. Have pla their part to perfection. Gory scenes are there but very limited. Vidya balan is a tigress in a male dominant film industry she is better that most of the male actors. Her dialogue delivery her confidence her aura ...she was living every moment. U see a best actress in her. A true successor to Shabana Azmi. A request to the reviewer please be bit impartial. The movie gave what it was expected to. Did you want a rosy tale of par ion. The period it is dealing with the topic it is dealing with is bound to be sad and horrific. Tears will flow....standing ovation to all the actors n to Mr Mukherjee
                              1. A
                                Apr 14, 2017 at 11:08 am
                                Thank God that you haven't watched the original one.. It's unbearable.. I wasted 3 hours of my life and now again 10 min.s reading and writing.. I do hope that this over hyped director get some eye opener reviews for him.. And before I end - yaahh the Bengali one had 3 plus points : initial opening sequence (inspired by Manto) -however I would suggest you read this master instead of watching some skinshow Jishu sengupta ( character pla by chunkey in Hindi version) And the best part was - the movie ends and you are free to buy saridon
                                1. D
                                  Apr 14, 2017 at 11:12 pm
                                  And you wasted another hour or so navigating the internet for reviews on this movie? Hmmm, I wonder why?
                                2. A
                                  Akhand Pratap Singh
                                  Apr 14, 2017 at 7:36 am
                                  The Critics have got habitual and addicted to nonsense ma films. They dont see a fresh imagination. This a good review ; special labour invested for that splendid English and definetly foolish people will enjoy it but the highly intellectual critic could n't draw a subtle meaning thats really astonishing . THE Intelligent critic could n't see the energy of Vidya Balan ; Thats isn't strange just because they love heroines dancing singing and inferior to heroes and that deserves stars.Let me tell you one thing you are not capable to judge any Performance by Vidya You dont have that eye nor could develope that now I know that.Critics are fools
                                  1. S
                                    Swapan Chakravarthy
                                    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:21 am
                                    One who has seen a m ive rejection in Bengali version can only be sold as a poor story. Indeed story telling is not a part of Indian films. It is eye gloss that is presented.
                                    1. p
                                      Apr 14, 2017 at 4:32 am
                                      Download and Watch Full Movie Begum Jaan Online Free Click on The Link :
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