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Begum Jaan or Raaj Kahini in Hindi? Film Unreview

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 , , 0 Comments


I just finished watching the Hindi version of Rajkahini. Yes, that is how I would rather address the film Begum Jaan as given the core duplication of the project, notwithstanding additional grandeur of Bollywood budget as compared to it's poorer cousin- Kolkata Film Industry. Coming back to Begum Jaan, the movie indeed left me to tear eyed, angry as ever and pushing me back in melancholy, reminding the atrocities of 1947 and 1984.

It is important that filmmakers need to keep telling, keep reminding us the atrocities of those dreadful ages. It is crucial for humanity to remember such bruises only to ensure that they do not repeat it again. For that, I applaud the movie and all its minute efforts to do so.

I even appreciated the opening scene wherein an old woman disrobed herself to protect a young girl from 3 rapists in almost a Nirbhaya like sequence. It was quite impactful and had the ability to shake anyone in their gut.

The Story of Begum Jaan
The film is about a brothel, its matriarch owner and her unwillingness to relocate to another location in view of geographical redistribution owing to a painful partition between India & Pakistan.

No tongue twister intended but the story is very simple. When India and Pakistan got separated, in the tug of "me before nation and countrymen" war between two legendary leaders, Radcliff was summoned to design the borders. Unfortunately, the line that was drawn sitting in an ivory tower, passed through the Begum Jaan's brothel and required her to shift from the location to another safer place, lock stock and one hookah barrel.

When summoned by the executors, our lady with her borrowed unibrow not just refuse to vacate her baadi but insults the two bureaucrats- Ilyas and his friend before partition- Shrivastava.

NO hell hath fury like two insulted bureaucrats. In a bid to get their order executed, they take help of a ruthless local goon, only to mourn their decision in the end.

Numerounity Reviews
The subject is sensitive and heart touching. What I did not like is the treatment of the core story, the screenplay or the direction. The movie had a powerful subject, filled with all required amount of angst, trauma and suppression. However, it could not justify the storyline or the way screenplay moved. Even the reference to powerful historical women characters wrt to its leading lady [Vidya Balan in amusing disguises] and her justification to not shift a house made of brick and mortar, instead, letting go the lives of its dwellers, whose lives she restored, maintained and perpetuated.


The movie had emotions and practicality at convenient points but narrative lacked resonance.  It is my perspective and I may be wrong. However, there were many loose ends in the film that do not connect. I already mentioned the first one. 

The second one is the cold-heartedness of the two crucial characters of Ilyas and Shrivastava who have gone through similar life-wrenching experiences. They have also seen their innocent women bearing the brunt of this sadistic society that finds consolation by ill-treating its women. Yet they select a way to deal with the problem in hand and in spite of demonstrated atrocities, sticks with it till the end. Job pressures eh? Even the storyline was poor, the characters played by Rajit Kapoor and Ashish Vidyarthi were as flawless as ever. Ashish Vidyarthi is my all time favourite but if I have to compare between him and Rajat Kapoor, the latter stole the thunder in this film.

The Performances
Talking about the performances, in the entire film, there were only a few characters that remained to their true sketch. Vidya Balan did her Begum Jaan act well, even though she was reduced to lot stereotypes. However, it was the other actors that left a bigger impact. They were - the ruthless Kabir well-played by Chunky Pandey, Gauhar Khan as Rubina, Ila Arun [she is a delight to watch as always] Pritobash Tripathy, Rajesh Sharma and surprisingly, the lovelorn Pallavi Sharda.


"Vidya Balan makes even stereotypes look good" - Numerounity!

Talking about the probable jaan of this film- Vidya Balan. Vidya Balan had many armours to carry her character. She had Rajkahini to fall back too, which she did. She sailed well in her soprano, standing as tall as the amazing Rituparna in Raajkahini. Blame it to the script or poor narrative that shifted her character as a pendulum. At one moment, she was ok to live through the fancies of the king [a small role essayed by Naseeruddin Shah] to ensure the upkeep of her brothel. At another moment, she reprimands him off when he expressed his failure to convince the government to not get her brothel demolished. At one point, she is shown absolute practical with situations, handling people the way they should be. At another moment, she is shown unmoved by the loss of her pet, her home-keeper and probable threat to all people inside her house only to continue living in a house that she was not born in.

I am not denying the emotions attached with a house but what suffices lives of human/pets over brick and mortar. Like I said, the movie is conveniently practical, lazily photostat at places. Overall, the build up except at the climax was sorely missing.

The fact that this movie, its characters and even their dresses, dialogues extra were so loosely copied from the original, stole away all the probable merit. Come on, you have a fierce subject, pre-defined characters, premises. Yet you cannot deliver a film on your own?

Do not know what I am saying? Well, watch this clip from Rajkahini-



I have seen both the movie- frame to frame and appalled by the resemblance. I would have been a better idea if they dubbed Raajkahini in Hindi and released the original. But Hell, it is a Bhatt's production and apparently, they have run out of sleazy B grade Hollywood movies to get the inspiration from. Given the fact that it was Bhatt production- the nawab converts in Raja in Hindi, while everything else including historical references is copied [used] shamelessly. Chalo, in a way it is good if the message reaches wider, non-bangla audience as well. Amaar sonaar Bollywood! [I guess I should be reviewing Raajkahini instead :P]

Nevertheless, I really want people to watch this movie. If not for technical/creative aspect, watch it for academic purposes. While, I do not know a lot about movie making, nor am I an appointed torch bearer of humanity, as many of you may like to troll. However, I have one basic question- Who/what gives the right to one human to kill/ act brutally with other humans? What do you want to justify by using rape as a tool?

Why is it so difficult to re-module a geographical border that never existed but it is ok to let go of human lives as if they were the muted trees in the busy meadows? Is modification such a herculean task?

It is not about the film but the underlying idea. I know a lot of us including me questioned the logic behind the stubbornness of the lead character that loved a house above the multiple lives that dwelled in it. Like I said, it was the flawed narration that could not place the logic.

The movie could have been powerful and more impactful but the unbinding narrative lost its plot, its purpose somewhere to portray the drama. Sometimes a little too loud, sometimes a little too manipulative. Yet kudos to the characters- young, old, leading, loading or the indirect reference to agony caused by partition, the movie is indeed worth a watch.

My rating: 3/5 [Only for the performances]



The autor is half Human, half machine. Go Figure or just revel in what I write

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