Begum Jaan (2017) by Srijit Mukherji

A powerful movie that depicts the women of courage


The movie “Begum jaan”, begins with a scene from New Delhi ‘2016. And after a few minutes, the director Srijit Mukherji hits the audience hard with a crude reality that questions our freedom. Are we too careless and carefree in this computerized, technologized India, standing with one leg on the past and one on the future, taking our freedom and the pain of it's fighters and the sufferings of millions, as granted?  “Begum Jaan” is Srijit Mukherji’s best movie till date, with a strong inherent message, power pact performances and a thought provoking directorial approach.

“Begum Jaan” owns a “kotha” or brothel and runs a family consisting of few girls who have suffered in this male dominated society.  They came from different parts of India and Begum Jaan has created this small country inside her “kotha”, where the inhabitants have no organized religion stamped on their body. They earn their livelihood by selling their body to the clients (read males) and fulfill their customers thrust for sex.  But India is burning in 1947, and the Radcliffe line divides the country slowly into two independent dominions, India and Pakistan. The partition line falls within the brothel headed by “Begum Jaan”. The story revolves around the brothel and its occupants and their fight for existence.  


Vidya Balan produces another power-packed performance as “Begum Jaan”. The script helps her with some hard hitting dialogues and the narrative gives her ample opportunity to portray different emotions of the protagonist in a superlative manner. Ashish Vidyarthi gives a brilliant performance, along with Rajit Kapoor. But the surprise packages of this movie are Gauahar Khan ( Rubina) and Chunky Pandey ( Kabir), and both of them are immensely convincing in their respective characters. Naseeruddin  Shah has nothing much to do in this movie and I sincerely think that he could have avoided the offer.

The movie contains some brilliant songs composed by Anu Malik , including “Prem Mein Tohre” by Asha Bhosle. Another soul stirring composition is “O Re Kaharo” sung by Kalpana Patowary and Altamash Faridi. The re-use of Khayyam’s classic “Woh Subah” is timely and blends perfectly with the narrative and sung beautifully by Arijit Singh and Shreya Ghoshal.

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“Begum Jaan” is a director’s movie and Srijit Mukherji as director prevails over Srijit as a story teller. There are some intriguing scenes in the movie masterminded by the director. The showing of half–cut faces of Srivastava (Hindu) and Illias (Muslim) in most of their confrontations, to highlight the partition of India, is just masterly. The thought of partition has been used effectively by the director as metaphor in different scenes. But I thought the use of animations to depict the stories of the courageous female characters from history could have been managed in a different manner.


“Begum Jaan” is a bold movie that hits us hard and leaves us with many questions regarding humanity, society and religion to stimulate our thoughts. As a movie it surely has its flaws, but those never disallow us to stand up and show our gratitude to the entire team of “Begum Jaan,” for giving us such a brilliant and much needed thought-stimulating movie.


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Asian Film Vault: Begum Jaan (2017) by Srijit Mukherji
Begum Jaan (2017) by Srijit Mukherji
A powerful movie that depicts the women of courage
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