Begum Jaan depicts the series of events that unfold in the backdrop of India-Pakistan partition. It requires a great deal of artisan to depict the partition scenario. It portrays, how the line named after Radcliffe, which divided Indian and Pakistan, brings gloom over the people living closer to it. The British Empire using its most potent and unethical weapon as the last resort to spread obscurity over India has been tinted effectively.
Begum Jaan is an adaptation of ‘Rajkahini’, a Bangla film by Srijit Mukherji. Although, the Bengali film featured a group of men and women living in a house situated right in the middle of East Pakistan and West Bengal. In his Bollywood debut film, Mukherji shifts this house to the Punjab-Pakistan border.
Vidya Balan as Begum Jaan is the owner of a Brothel. Let’s understand Begum Jaan’s character, a hookah-snorting, razor-tongued woman with authoritarian air; she is the master of her destiny, the administration and the local people are scared of her. Her crumbling mansion is her kingdom. Women of every caste, language and religion can be found in her brothel, which encompasses riot victims, some simply thrown out of their houses and some who have failed in love. Nobody dares talk to her in a mocking tone. However, her inner self is much placid and compassionate than what she cares to show and she knows what it means to be a sex worker.
Portrayed as a good woman but into an awful business is what demarcates Vidya Balan’s persona. The split second giving a glance of Begum brutally slapping a new girl creates the way for a volcanic outbreak and positioning the message of how the society is functioning under patriarchy. She says, “Aazaadi keval mardon ke liye hoti hai,” (Freedom is meant to be only for men) and sets the pace.
As the story unfolds the fight between two genders with traitors from both sides crossing the fences reached its peak. From an ageing king to compliant farmers, men treat women as a mere commodity. Begum is not willing to take things lying down and thus she fights each of these men. The law enforcing agencies make desperate efforts to dislodge Begum from her mansion leading to a war showcasing shapes and forms of patriarchy.
Vidya Balan along with Gauhar Khan and Chunkey Pandey keeps the ball rolling in this 134-minute narration. The Begum’s brothel having a weird sense of serenity and a disturbing atmosphere at the same time delves into the theme of beauty and excellence. You will surely appreciate its documentary-like feel.