Harangues of a harassed harem keeper

Harangues of a harassed harem keeper

Begum Jaan
Hindi (A) **
Cast: Vidya Balan, Gauhar Khan, Vivek Mushran, Chunky Pandey, Rajit Kapur, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ila Arun, Naseeruddin Shah
Direction: Srijit Mukherji

A retelling of his own 2015 Bengali flick Rajkahini, director Srijit had ample opportunity to make Begum Jaan, nuanced and insightful period flick. However, Srijit, making his Bollywood debut, misses golden opportunity failing to script an engaging entertainer.

Set during partition of India and Pakistan, Srijit’s Begum Jaan, revolves around fiesty and authoritarian, hookah puffing, razor tongued bordello owner’s resilient and resolute fight to save her thriving harem which she runs with iron-fisted hand.

With emphasis more on bawdy dialogues and theatrics, colourful costumery, and commodification of his characters, than sensible delineation on turbulent times, Srijit’s Begum Jaan turns out all high shrilled ranting and resulting fury than provide appreciative, perspective driven rivetting drama.

Slapped with eviction notice to shut shop following Radcliffe line dividing India and Pakistan, since the brothel sits prettily in middle of great divide, how madam Jaan uses all womanly guiles to save her trade and women using their profession’s charms, forms fulcrum of Begum Jaan.

Cliched and cacophonic, Begum Jaan, solely rests on versatile Vidya Balan, who, however,  is unable to salvage it alone despite powerful redition of titular role.Though boasting of ensemble cast of veterans, Begum Jaan turns out poor first outing for Srijit’s ambitions.

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