Verdict: Defining the irony that freedom is.
The freedom of India came with some heavy prices to pay, one of which was the partition of Hindustan and Pakistan. There were lakhs of people who became homeless and many lost their lives in what is considered one of bloodiest chapters of both countries' history. It parted a united country into two but there were a few things that even the partition couldn't divide. One such was Begun Jaan's brothel. Written and directed by National Award-winner Srijit Mukherjee, Begum Jaan is a tale of a woman who stood for herself and fought for freedom after August 1947.
The film is set in the very period of partition when officials find out that there's a brothel belonging to a certain Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) exactly where the border or the Radcliffe Line passes through. They visit there to give the residents a warning to leave the place but Begum Jaan and her girls stand firm. Begum Jaan is the bold and fearless owner of the brothel between Debiganj and Haldibari district and has been living there for years. The officials try every trick in the book to evict the inhabitants of the brothel and their struggle to hold on to what they believe is rightfully theirs and not for an event in history to take away forms the rest of this extremely moving and gripping tale.
With the casting on point, the film boasts of brilliant actors and powerful performances. Vidya Balan as Begum Jaan adds another feather to her cap. Her character is fierce yet soft, powerful yet helpless, brutal yet loving, and Balan manages to portray every aspect of Begum Jaan's personality simultaneously with grace. Pallavi Sharda has time and again delivered credible performances and this movie is no different. Gauhar Khan as Rubina is the surprise package in an unconventional role that she has effortlessly pulled off.
The film is a remake of the much acclaimed Bengali film Rajkahini, and it has been adapted well to serve the Hindi film audience. The pace of the film seems slow at times and the screenplay drags it furthermore in the second half but nothing will let you take your eyes off the screen all thanks to the actors. Chunky Pandey, who is introduced much later in the movie will make you want more of him in his cringe-worthy avatar. He tends to go over-the-top a few times but doesn't fail to entertain.
The film is much more than just a period drama, it is the tale of a fight for survival, honor and what is right. The women in the brothel are evidently of different ethnicity, caste and religion but none of that matters. It is truly said that prostitutes have no caste, no religion or nationality. In one of the scenes, one of the women accepts that she is more free in the brothel than she was at her own house, and it is a food for thought how 'home' is said to be the safest place of all. The brothel here is just significant of a place of belonging and it is a sad truth that they have to fight for what already belonged to them in the first place; something we probably continue to see even now.
The film has many hidden messages in Begum Jaan's fight against the partition of her house and her heart. The film is to be watched and pondered over because a battle won doesn't mean that the war is over.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
The film opens with a shot of Connaught Place (New Delhi) with a setting similar to that of the case of Nirbhaya, but what follows is courageous and very empowering. Watch the movie to feel empowered. A Vidya Balan fan will watch Begum Jaan multiple times and for good reason. There are also new faces who will surprise you with their work in the movie.