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Begum Jaan: Shooting in the dark

Begum Jaan is a waste of acting ammo, ending in a painfully prolonged and predictable climax

Veer Arjun Singh 

Vidya Balan

There’s a scene at the onset of Begum Jaan’s climax that spells out what its director, Srijit Mukherji, achieves in the remake of his Bengali hit Rajkahini. A band of women armed with rifles is fiercely defending its shelter, a brothel, which figures as the bone of contention in partitioning India and Pakistan in undivided The women, led by matriarch Begum Jaan, played by Vidya Balan, are new to weaponry and are taken aback by the sudden attack on their home. Next, they are shooting in the dark in a losing battle.

Be assured, this review is bereft of spoilers. The story elaborated in two hours is much explained in its three-minute trailer. Set in the backdrop of India’s independence, the central plot is the story of multi-cultured residents of Begum Jaan’s who, at her command, rejoice a limited sense of liberty that they are bereaved of in tragic back stories. But at the brothel, away from the menacing patriarchy of the time, the women celebrate festivities in the company of none but two men, a pimp and a guard, all as one family. Not acquainted with English, they even listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech, “A tryst with destiny”, on the radio and rejoice at the word aazadi, oblivious to what comes next until they are served eviction notices by the representatives of sparring Indian National Congress and Muslim League.



But as the film progresses, it branches out into multiple story lines, which unbinds the script leading to a predictable and prolonged climax. Balan’s performance lends power to but the treatment of the film fails her rawness, producing an unconvincing protagonist. The usual comic relief, Chunky Pandey, is stellar as devilish Kabir, who knows no religion and is willing to slaughter anything that moves for money, by virtue of both his performance and the characterisation. The off-centre supporting acts of as Rubina and Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo are impactful, perturbed only by their Punjabi accents that seem forced. Ila Arun as their beloved Amma narrates tales of bravery that empowers the women in a veteran’s performance. Pitobash as pimp and helper Surjeet has a sequence of comic act dedicated to him that fails to tickle you. Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaji could have found something better to do with his time. The remaining characters are penned in limited capacity.

There will be moments when you question if you’re hollow inside and feel nothing. The tragedy of these women, who are shunned by society and are putting their lives on the line to defend the little semblance of life the gives them, is unmoving. You’re only likely to reach for popcorn and not the tissue box. The film abruptly jumps between story lines, attempting to evoke a mixed bag of emotions — all within a few minutes — but falls flat. The climax, envisioned as the epitome of tragedy, leads to multiple deaths and yet, you’re unaffected if not amused.

Many of the devices used in cinematography leave you dumbfounded. The discussions of Partition between long-lost friends, Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor, who now belong to different nations, have close-ups of their faces cut in half, portraying perhaps the duality of their characters — before and after the division. The end product is absurd. The tragic climax — which revisits the scenes of  the women’s defiance superimposed with an overwhelming background score — is when you reckon leaving first to beat the parking congestion.

The film entangles itself in various themes of feminism and sexuality, and of women’s rights and the horrifying state of prostitution in India. A scene in which Gulabo, while overpowered by a client in bed, looks out the window to catch a glimpse of the one she loves, deals in the subject cheap. Another scene that hints at the sexual desires of Amba and Maina, played by Ridheema Tiwari and Flora Saini respectively, to be with each other is left unexplored. Many such parallel stories evaporate without a fire.

Perhaps Mukherji should have paid more attention to his film’s opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan that criticises Cyril Radcliffe’s hurried division of Independent India. at best is a theatre act put together on short notice. What Mukherji needed was a whiteboard and not a remake.

Watch it if you get free tickets with recliners, a three-course meal and a foot massage.

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Begum Jaan: Shooting in the dark

Begum Jaan is a waste of acting ammo, ending in a painfully prolonged and predictable climax

Begum Jaan is a waste of acting ammo, ending in a painfully prolonged and predictable climax There’s a scene at the onset of Begum Jaan’s climax that spells out what its director, Srijit Mukherji, achieves in the remake of his Bengali hit Rajkahini. A band of women armed with rifles is fiercely defending its shelter, a brothel, which figures as the bone of contention in partitioning India and Pakistan in undivided The women, led by matriarch Begum Jaan, played by Vidya Balan, are new to weaponry and are taken aback by the sudden attack on their home. Next, they are shooting in the dark in a losing battle.

Be assured, this review is bereft of spoilers. The story elaborated in two hours is much explained in its three-minute trailer. Set in the backdrop of India’s independence, the central plot is the story of multi-cultured residents of Begum Jaan’s who, at her command, rejoice a limited sense of liberty that they are bereaved of in tragic back stories. But at the brothel, away from the menacing patriarchy of the time, the women celebrate festivities in the company of none but two men, a pimp and a guard, all as one family. Not acquainted with English, they even listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech, “A tryst with destiny”, on the radio and rejoice at the word aazadi, oblivious to what comes next until they are served eviction notices by the representatives of sparring Indian National Congress and Muslim League.

But as the film progresses, it branches out into multiple story lines, which unbinds the script leading to a predictable and prolonged climax. Balan’s performance lends power to but the treatment of the film fails her rawness, producing an unconvincing protagonist. The usual comic relief, Chunky Pandey, is stellar as devilish Kabir, who knows no religion and is willing to slaughter anything that moves for money, by virtue of both his performance and the characterisation. The off-centre supporting acts of as Rubina and Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo are impactful, perturbed only by their Punjabi accents that seem forced. Ila Arun as their beloved Amma narrates tales of bravery that empowers the women in a veteran’s performance. Pitobash as pimp and helper Surjeet has a sequence of comic act dedicated to him that fails to tickle you. Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaji could have found something better to do with his time. The remaining characters are penned in limited capacity.

There will be moments when you question if you’re hollow inside and feel nothing. The tragedy of these women, who are shunned by society and are putting their lives on the line to defend the little semblance of life the gives them, is unmoving. You’re only likely to reach for popcorn and not the tissue box. The film abruptly jumps between story lines, attempting to evoke a mixed bag of emotions — all within a few minutes — but falls flat. The climax, envisioned as the epitome of tragedy, leads to multiple deaths and yet, you’re unaffected if not amused.

Many of the devices used in cinematography leave you dumbfounded. The discussions of Partition between long-lost friends, Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor, who now belong to different nations, have close-ups of their faces cut in half, portraying perhaps the duality of their characters — before and after the division. The end product is absurd. The tragic climax — which revisits the scenes of  the women’s defiance superimposed with an overwhelming background score — is when you reckon leaving first to beat the parking congestion.

The film entangles itself in various themes of feminism and sexuality, and of women’s rights and the horrifying state of prostitution in India. A scene in which Gulabo, while overpowered by a client in bed, looks out the window to catch a glimpse of the one she loves, deals in the subject cheap. Another scene that hints at the sexual desires of Amba and Maina, played by Ridheema Tiwari and Flora Saini respectively, to be with each other is left unexplored. Many such parallel stories evaporate without a fire.

Perhaps Mukherji should have paid more attention to his film’s opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan that criticises Cyril Radcliffe’s hurried division of Independent India. at best is a theatre act put together on short notice. What Mukherji needed was a whiteboard and not a remake.

Watch it if you get free tickets with recliners, a three-course meal and a foot massage.
image
Business Standard
177 22

Begum Jaan: Shooting in the dark

Begum Jaan is a waste of acting ammo, ending in a painfully prolonged and predictable climax

There’s a scene at the onset of Begum Jaan’s climax that spells out what its director, Srijit Mukherji, achieves in the remake of his Bengali hit Rajkahini. A band of women armed with rifles is fiercely defending its shelter, a brothel, which figures as the bone of contention in partitioning India and Pakistan in undivided The women, led by matriarch Begum Jaan, played by Vidya Balan, are new to weaponry and are taken aback by the sudden attack on their home. Next, they are shooting in the dark in a losing battle.

Be assured, this review is bereft of spoilers. The story elaborated in two hours is much explained in its three-minute trailer. Set in the backdrop of India’s independence, the central plot is the story of multi-cultured residents of Begum Jaan’s who, at her command, rejoice a limited sense of liberty that they are bereaved of in tragic back stories. But at the brothel, away from the menacing patriarchy of the time, the women celebrate festivities in the company of none but two men, a pimp and a guard, all as one family. Not acquainted with English, they even listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech, “A tryst with destiny”, on the radio and rejoice at the word aazadi, oblivious to what comes next until they are served eviction notices by the representatives of sparring Indian National Congress and Muslim League.

But as the film progresses, it branches out into multiple story lines, which unbinds the script leading to a predictable and prolonged climax. Balan’s performance lends power to but the treatment of the film fails her rawness, producing an unconvincing protagonist. The usual comic relief, Chunky Pandey, is stellar as devilish Kabir, who knows no religion and is willing to slaughter anything that moves for money, by virtue of both his performance and the characterisation. The off-centre supporting acts of as Rubina and Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo are impactful, perturbed only by their Punjabi accents that seem forced. Ila Arun as their beloved Amma narrates tales of bravery that empowers the women in a veteran’s performance. Pitobash as pimp and helper Surjeet has a sequence of comic act dedicated to him that fails to tickle you. Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaji could have found something better to do with his time. The remaining characters are penned in limited capacity.

There will be moments when you question if you’re hollow inside and feel nothing. The tragedy of these women, who are shunned by society and are putting their lives on the line to defend the little semblance of life the gives them, is unmoving. You’re only likely to reach for popcorn and not the tissue box. The film abruptly jumps between story lines, attempting to evoke a mixed bag of emotions — all within a few minutes — but falls flat. The climax, envisioned as the epitome of tragedy, leads to multiple deaths and yet, you’re unaffected if not amused.

Many of the devices used in cinematography leave you dumbfounded. The discussions of Partition between long-lost friends, Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor, who now belong to different nations, have close-ups of their faces cut in half, portraying perhaps the duality of their characters — before and after the division. The end product is absurd. The tragic climax — which revisits the scenes of  the women’s defiance superimposed with an overwhelming background score — is when you reckon leaving first to beat the parking congestion.

The film entangles itself in various themes of feminism and sexuality, and of women’s rights and the horrifying state of prostitution in India. A scene in which Gulabo, while overpowered by a client in bed, looks out the window to catch a glimpse of the one she loves, deals in the subject cheap. Another scene that hints at the sexual desires of Amba and Maina, played by Ridheema Tiwari and Flora Saini respectively, to be with each other is left unexplored. Many such parallel stories evaporate without a fire.

Perhaps Mukherji should have paid more attention to his film’s opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan that criticises Cyril Radcliffe’s hurried division of Independent India. at best is a theatre act put together on short notice. What Mukherji needed was a whiteboard and not a remake.

Watch it if you get free tickets with recliners, a three-course meal and a foot massage.

image
Business Standard
177 22