There have been a number of movies on India-Pakistan partition, but Begum Jaan shows a completely different angle. The movie shows that the Radcliffe Line not only unleashed havoc on the lives of thousands of people by creating a border, it also destroyed some others who were based on the line of the division.
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Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan), a hookah lover with a sharp tongue, is the owner of a brothel, which she calls her palace. She stays there along with her girls, and she is afraid of no one, as she has the support from the local king, played by Naseeruddin Shah.
Although she is portrayed as a merciless woman, she is soft from inside. She believes herself to be the god-woman for all the girls in her brothel, as she gives these homeless ladies shelter, but of course in exchange of being part of her prostitution business. You will, at times, find it hard to decide if you should sympathise with her character or feel agitated by her authoritativeness. Nevertheless, all the girls in her "mahal" respect her and are ready to do anything for her.
However, things start to change after government officials find out that the brothel is situated exactly on the line of the to-be-made border, and decide to get it demolished. Flaunting her badass personality and no-fear attitude, Begum Jaan dares the law enforcers to bring down her establishment. And then starts a war between Begum Jaan's team of women and government officials. Whether Begum Jaan is able to protect her "castle" fighting with the mighty forces, or she submits before the government makes the crux of the story.
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Vidya Balan seems to be tailor-made for the character of Begum Jaan. She delivers her powerful dialogues with precision, and portrays the badass character to almost perfection. Her performance in Begum Jaan will remind you of her brilliant act in The Dirty Picture.
After Vidya, Gauhar Khan (Rubina) has a pretty impactful role in the film. Although there is not much skin show, there are a couple of very bold scenes where Rubina's character will make you deeply empathise for prostitutes. Chunky Pandey looks quite unrecognisable in the movie. Playing the character of a ruthless contract killer, Kabir, Chunky is seen in a never-before-seen wicked avatar that catches attention.
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All the other ladies in the movie have also done a commendable job as far as acting is concerned. Other stars like Rajit Kapur, Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajesh Sharma have limited screen space, but their characters also leave an overall impact in the story.
Directed by national award-winning director Srijit Mukherji, Begum Jaan has a number of very powerful dialogues that perfectly hit the bull's eye. Dialogues like Begum Jaan saying "Mahina humein ginna ata hai sahab, har bar sala lal karke jata hai" add more power to Vidya's character. Dialogues are undoubtedly the USP of this film. Although a commercial film, the director gives it a touch of documentary movie that is refreshing. Apart from the powerful performances, Begum Jaan has a unique storyline.
There are a couple of scenes that appear to be a bit clichéd. There are many instances in the films that show all men in bad light. The director apparently attempts to establish the notion that it is a male-dominated society then and nothing much has changed even now, which is kind of hard to digest. Not every man is a "three-legged bakra" like Begum Jaan believes, and not every man wants to rape girls.
Vidya's Begum Jaan is a hard-hitting movie with some powerful dialogues and bold scenes that will make you wish if there was never a partition, but I wish the director had avoided making it clichéd in certain aspects.