To watch Begum Jaan for me, was to witness the performance of Vidya Balan, while she gives an ode to the art of acting. Yet, let me tell you this.. this movie is NOT for the faint of heart! There were moments, one too many, which shook my soul and made my eyes wet!
If you are looking for a ‘Paisa-wasool’ no brainer, let me warn you… turn away!
If you wish to see the crass side of humanity and the blood-shed of the most historic event in the history for our part of the world.. then Begum Jaan will leave you unsettled, shaken, yet with goose bumps on how our history book narrations can never do justice to the descriptions of horrors in the 1947 Partition!
The movie is not about feminism. The movie is not about human rights. The movie is not about partition of India and Pakistan in 1947… It is a whole dramatic representation of all of the above! The movie is strong.. it is fierce in its language and content! The dialogues and the flow of the movie have not been sugar-coated to serve anyones’ sensibilities of righteousness ! It tells the story as it could have been and was meant to happen.
Anyone who has watched the trailer, already knows that the movie is about a brothel which is headed by Vidya Balan , a.k.a. Begum Jaan. The fate of this haweli is doomed once it has been decided that the India-Pakistan border was to pass through it. The resulting lash-back from the dhandae-wali is seen through pure aggressive human defensiveness.
I liked the parallel story lines of history, being narrated by the Amma-Be who told historic events to Ladli (The only child at the brothel born to one of the women). The flashbacks were played by Vidya, but cartoonized in their cinematic finish to depict another story. Interestingly, all these stories lead back to what ‘Begum Jaan’ stood for.
Spoiler Alert 1; Pay attention to the hair of the old woman shown in present day India.
It was refreshing to see the unrest and emotional-sorrow felt by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims equally. I commend the makers of the movie for not making this a film on defaming Pakistan or demonizing Muslims. Rather, the human connection that all felt before the partition is represented through suppressed friendships and brutal losses that all families on both side of the border felt. I won’t tell more, as it will give away the movie..
Honestly, there were times during the starting part of the movie, as well as, some dialogues of Begum Jaan, that I felt the absence of dramatized emotions that I would expect from a Bollywood click! However, I soon realized that my brain has been channeled into this expectation by watching ‘Star Plus’ shows! In real life there is no such moment of the world halting while a person delivers some lines.. nor are there moments of our life where we have a camera focused on our face, and we deliver all lines in a beautiful Shakespearean style! IN reality we use words to deliver what our mind thinks… without an expectation of earth-shattering camera focus moment! Once I acknowledged this, I found that the movie was directed as a real life expectation, with only a few moments highlighted with loud music and dramatic camera zoom-ins.
Lastly, I loved the way the director tied the opening scene, to the last part of the movie, and then connect it to the present day human behaviour.
Spoiler Alert 2: Be ready to see some leading actors of yester-years!
In the end, if you are a movie buff, who loves to explore the various forms of performing arts, you will relish the time spent watching this movie. Don’t be put off to all the hype to not watch, as the ending is not ‘Happy go lucky’. Honestly, life is… LIFE.. a mix of happy and sad.. what makes happiness all the more sweeter, is acknowledging the sadness in it.
Let me know what you thought of it by commenting below 😀
Update: My new favorite song is the ‘Prem Mein Thore’ sung by Asha Bhosle. Do check out the beautiful musical scores as well!