An adaptation of acclaimed 2014 Bengali movie, Rajkahini, Begum Jaan shows us another story of the repercussions of partition, when India and Pakistan drew borders. Millions of people were killed as result, and decades old enmity began between two countries which was once upon a time, came under one name. Srijit Mukherji directs this one, while Vidya Balan plays the lead protagonist. Bollywoodlife's film critic Sreeju Sudhakaran is watching the movie right now, and the first half just got over. Here are his thoughts about the movie so far...
Surprisingly, the movie begins in 2016, in a scene that becomes uncomfortable by the minute, before it moves 70 years back to 1947 when a British diplomat called Radcliffe drew a line that divided two countries, and along with millions of people, a brothel run by a Begum Jaan also gets victimised. The first half introduces us to the inhabitants of this derelict haweli, the prostitutes, some of whom have been victims of gang rape. Begum Jaan is the mother-like figure for them, who oscillates being a kindred spirit to a stern hand when the situation demands. Some of them have their own love stories and infatuations, but nothing matters within the four walls of that kotha. Until that fateful day when the administrators from both the countries land up in their courtyard with an eviction notice.
Though it has its moments, Begum Jaan moves in a languid pace in the first half trying to set up the characters and the camaraderie of Begum and her girls. While Prem Mein Tohre song works, a couple of scenes irritate thanks to certain loud acting from a couple of characters. Backstories of some secondary characters, like the two administrators, could have been avoided. The film is bold, oh yeah, perhaps too bold for a mainstream Bollywood movie. Among the ensemble, Vidya Balan towers among the rest with her strong performance, though her character has rough edges. The movie peaks when it discussed the effects of partition, which is mostly confined to a very few scenes in the first half. Thankfully, the interval reaches the point where it promises to focus more on partition drama. And also give us glimpses of Chunkey Pandey and Naseeruddin Shah's characters.
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