Feminism, women empowerment, being true to oneself etc are a few words and sentences which are unfortunately being misinterpreted all the time and its true meaning still lies subdued. ' Being unapologetic' is one way of getting empowered. Being true to one's own reality is another way of getting empowered. Begum Jan is both.
The message is clearly conveyed when the protagonist says ' the brothel is ours, the body is ours and the rules are ours'. Though sex workers, we cannot see any victims there. They might have been victims at some point in time in their lives, but once they came under the safe roof of ' Begum Jaan', they ceased to be victims. Director Srijith Mukherjee has clearly drawn a demarcation line for the protagonist from becoming a larger - than size character.
She is strong but vulnerable too. As usual, you cannot see a single trace of Vidya in Begum Jaan.
The characters lack hypocrisy and it is well conveyed too.
The movie opens with an incident that shows a striking resemblance to the gruesome Nirbhaya case. But unlike the real incident, the girl is saved by an old woman who strips herself in front of the miscreants. Proved to be a knock on their conscience, they leave the girl unharmed.
From there, we are taken to 1947 when India was about to get freedom. Cyril Radcliff, who was utterly clueless on the diversity of India was called by the last viceroy Mountbatten to have the final cut on the country - perhaps, the most brutal atrocity which the English had ever committed in the country.
When Radcliff completes his task successfully by drawing the infamous ' Radcliff line', there stands a brothel as a major bottleneck in the border of Punjab and Pakistan.
For the Radcliff Line is paasing through ' Begum Jaan's brothel and to evict her is not an easy task. The crux of the story is how the two officers from the Congress and the Muslim league ( Rajat Kapur and Ashish Vidyarthi) who also happens to be friends become successful in their mission. Will they be able to revel in their success once the mission is accomplished.
Begum Jaan is an unrelenting opponent - a woman shaped and moulded by the scars of her life. She is running a brothel with 12 sex workers from all the castes. Though a brothel, it is a close-knit unit. Though they have their personal woes, they are happy at the moment.
Right from the outset, we understand that things are not going to end on a happy note.But how they deal with their reality makes the story.
Of course, there are many loud outbursts and use of expletives. But you cannot expect refined use of language from a brothel and its inmates. The partition is being used just as a background and you cannot see any worse ramification of the holocaust as you are watching the whole story either from the view of Begum Jan who is least bit bothered about the partition. " Partition is only for men. For us, everything is same once the light goes off," she says or from the officers' viewpoint who are only witnessing the Begum Jan's story.
Perhaps, this was how the people of India at the time of partition might have felt too. They had to bear the brunt for something they had not done. Unfortunately, the situation has not changed one bit.
Besides, it's the loudness which made me connect to their traumas and tribulations.
The two officers - Rajat Kapur ( Iliyaz and Hari Prasad) are also caught in the dilemma. They too had to sacrifice a lot due to partition. Unlike Begum Jaan and her girls these are two characters who are trying their level best to run away from their realities. Though ruthlessly quelled, Begum Jaan and her girls emerge victorious and these two men puts themselves in a state of being where even their success becomes their failures.
Ila Arun's character recites the story of Jhansi Rani, Padmavathi, Meera Bhai. I don't believe those narratives have sidetracked the story, instead, it is an attempt to reinforce the resilience of Begum Jaan and her girls.
Every actor in the film deserves special mention especially Chunky Pandey who played perhaps one of the best roles so far in his film career
Begum Jaan is the remake of Srijith Mukherjee's Bengali movie Rajkahini which was a major hit in Bengal.
Loved Begum Jaan