Begum Jaan: A Terrific Plot Drowned by Unwarranted Sensationalism and Incoherent Writing
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
A plot with immense potential finds itself to be drowning due to unwarranted sensationalism and shoddy execution. Begum Jaan could’ve been an unforgettable tale had it employed much more authenticity. Though it conveniently borrows many shades from Shyam Benegal’s Mandi, it fails to create the impact the former created with its tact and intensity. Unfortunately, Begum Jaan’s greatness is submerged by the chaos it so desperately creates.
In 1947, tempers flare and people find themselves in jeopardy as the British decide to draw the Radcliffe Line to partition India and the newly forming Pakistan. Caught in between this unavoidable partition is the cut throat Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) and her beloved Kotha. Soon enough, Begum is served with an eviction notice as her brothel is situated right in the midst of the soon-to-be India-Pakistan border. Being the feisty madam that she is, she refuses to give up her home without a fight.
Begum Jaan’s chaotic and melodramatic screenplay goes on to prove that director Srijit Mukherji misses the mark by a mile. A story like this should’ve immersed the audiences through its characters. But until the end, you will never find yourself empathizing with Begum Jaan or her group of headstrong women. The narration is shallow, and every little nuance that the characters embody just floats across the surface due to the sensational writing.
Considering the kind of drama the setting of the plot brings to the picture, every other desperately executed sequence just screams for attention. Perhaps this is why the film fails to induce emotions in its viewers.
Vidya Balan has always been a stellar performer, so she has undoubtedly carried the role of Begum Jaan with fine nuances intact. The problem is that her character embodiment will never sink into your senses. Due to the director’s incoherent character build up, you will not find yourself feeling for her; you are forced to be a mere spectator.
From Naseeruddin Shah to Gauhar Khan, there are many masterful performers in Begum Jaan, but their skills are not put to the ultimate test in a fulfilling manner. The superficial noise the film tends to make drains out the characters and their portrayals.
The aesthetics and production design of Begum Jaan doesn’t do enough justice to its plot. The locations barely look lived in; situational elements like Rain and Holi fail to instigate realism. The entire production design and prop usage are too rehearsed to look convincing.
Another problematic aspect of this film is its uneven and distracting imagery. The wide angle shots are shot in an unimaginative manner. In a few scenes, we only see one half of Ashish Vidyarti and Rajit Kapur’s faces. Though the cinematographer might have intended to symbolize the partition through such shots, the experimentation fails miserably.
No matter how desperately Anu Malik’s refreshing music tries, it cannot uplift a story with these many loopholes. A plot that carries sensationalism of this kind undeniably fails to move the audiences through its music.
Overall, Begum Jaan has a terrific plot at its disposal, but the evidently incoherent writing fails to leave an impact. In fact, it is quite disappointing to see the film employ sensationalism and superficial noise to a story that could’ve easily been thought-provoking.