Dubbing Srijit Mukerji’s Begum Jaan a masterpiece, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt who has been in the Indian film industry for 47 years, believes the project is a “homecoming” for him and a reminder of the cinema that was his hallmark. A Hindi adaptation of National Award winner Mukerji’s critically-acclaimed Bengali outing Rajkahini, Begum Jaan sees Vidya Balan play a brothel owner in a story of survival set against the backdrop of the Partition. The film releases on April 14. It is produced by Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt’s Vishesh Films.
“This is Renaissance for Vishesh Films. It’s a new homecoming for me. This is a kind of cinema which I was known for in my formative years… The movies which will be there in my obituary and I am privileged to have a filmmaker like Srijit who came as a gift to me,” Mahesh said here at a preview of the trailer for select media persons on International Women’s Day.
The Arth maker said screenings of Rajkahini as well as “Begum Jaan” both stirred and overwhelmed him.
“I found that my entire being kind of stirred by the images and the content. After 47 years, I find this medium of cinema still has the kind of power to physically stir you and that comes from the impulse from which this film was created and what is amazing that from the first time I laid my eyes on ‘Rajkahini’, I was overwhelmed and stirred, to the final viewing of ‘Begum Jaan’ in a preview.
“What remained was the same feeling. It was consistent. It didn’t evaporate,” he said. Heaping praise on Mukherji, Mahesh lamented the fact that talents from different regions of India are not considered. “Mumbai is very inward looking and very insulated. It’s a tragedy we do not look within our own country and the enormous talents that exist within our own country,” he said.
Recounting his meeting with Mukerji after 32 days of exhaustive filming in trying conditions in Jharkhand for “Begum Jaan”, the veteran said the director looked as if he had survived a shipwreck.
“I walked up to him (Mukerji) and he looked like a man who had survived a shipwreck. The experience was etched on his body. I told Srijit ‘I have a certain feeling that we have a masterpiece at hand’. He took a pause and a smile erupted on his face and he said ‘I suspect you may not be totally wrong’,” added Mahesh.