It is very rare that you like a remake of a film as much you loved the original. When the same director makes the movie in different language the are no chances he can go wrong. Begum Jaan is directed by Srijit Mukherji who helmed the original Bengali version Rajkahini. Begum Jaan is as awesome as Rajkahini. Only things that are not the same as the original are; the length is trimmed by good twenty minutes to half an hour from the original and Rajkahini has no traces of 2015 to it like Begum Jaan starts in 2016. Kudos to Srijit Mukherji for retaining the essence of Rajkahini in Begum Jaan despite these two tiny differences. It is commendable how Srijit has linked that one 2016 scene with the entire film set in 1947. Also despite of length being comparatively short the film nowhere looks abrupt.
Trailer of Begum Jaan gives you a clear idea about the story. It is set in Indian Independence era, it is fictional and the idea of the film itself is very powerful. Even though the film talks about things seventy years back many of them are relevant even today like the entire brothel concept and the life there. Since it is a remake comparisons are bound to happen but Srijit makes sure he gives no chance to complain to the original viewers who are watching the remake. As far as Hindi cinema is concerned, yes Shyam Benegal’s Mandi has somewhat similar premise that of a life in brothel but it ends differently, is set in different time era so it makes no sense in comparing Mandi and Begum Jaan. Begum Jaan has its own charm.
Vidya Balan is powerhouse of talent and this needs to be announced as the universal truth. There is nothing she cannot do as an artist. The way she gets into the character is doing something impossible with much ease. Her look in the film might be a bit difficult to be fond of but her performance will simply blow your mind. Srijit makes sure you do not compare her with Rituparna Sengupta. Both of them are fantastic in their respective roles in both the films. Vidya and Srijit both convince you that no one else but Vidya could have pulled off this difficult role easily. Apart from Vidya the film is crowded with lot of other actors. All the girls in the brothel are perfectly cast. They have little to say in the film but are an integral part of the film. Gauhar Khan, Pallavi Sharda and Ila Arun get comparatively more limelight and they do not disappoint you. Speaking about men there is a pool of talent; Pitobash, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapur and Naseeruddin Shah. It is amazing to see Chunky Pandey in such role.
Srijit Mukherji; captain of the ship sails smoothly giving you an entertaining and satisfying ride. His writing is gripping and direction in noteworthy. I loved how he captures Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapur’s conversations with half face extreme tight close ups. Goopi Bhagat beautifully shows us the Independence era literally taking us in that time. Anu Malik’s compositions suit the film but he can compose much better and some better numbers in the film would not have harmed it in any way.
Overall Begum Jaan makes for a great watch. I highly recommend it.