Begum Jaan

wogma rating: Add to that never-watched 'To Watch' list (?)

quick review:

Asks pertinent questions subtly, but everything about it seems like it is for “effect”. None of it germane to a story.

Read more
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Cast: Vidya Balan
Running time: 140 minutes
Genres: Social
More Movie Info

Begum Jaan - Preview

The very premise of Begum Jaan is too dramatic for my taste - a new international border running through the middle of a house. Then the dialogue seems over-written with the intention to shock. After all, what is a brothel setting without women who speak their mind? But at least in the trailer it comes across as a certain setting chosen so that such dialogue can be written rather than dialogue written for a particular situation.

What surprised me is, in these 2-minutes, Chunkey Pandey's acting felt more powerful than Vidya Balan's. In its way it is both a good sign and bad. A strong villain who can intimidate always makes things interesting. The other actresses reminded me a lot of Gulaab Gang.

This one really looks like it could go either way. So, in that sense looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to watch this one on the day of release. I will hopefully catch it on the following Monday. Keep an eye out here and on our social media pages: Facebook - Twitter

- meeta, a part of the audience

Are women treated any differently now than they were back in 1947? Are women “sex providers” whether or not they are sex-workers? Is national pride or religion more important than humanity? Was the land of the people not raped when the border was laid out in 1947? These are the questions Begum Jaan, the film asks without saying it out loud. While that is worth appreciating, the metaphors are so direct that they just about qualify as metaphors. Begum Jaan then is full of ideas that get badly beaten up in execution.

until the interval, everything you see you already know from the trailer

Begum Jaan is loud – both the film and the character. It is ok for one character in a film to be loud, but when a whole cackle of characters is loud it is difficult to take it seriously. It reminds you of loud Hindi TV series or typical Hindi slapstick films – an association that is unlikely to bode well for any film.

To top that off, almost each woman in Begum Jaan's brothel is pretty much the same. There are barely any distinguishing characteristics - except for their accent. There is a touch of a difference in terms of one has a lover, one has a child and so on. But these are superficial differences. Something the writers seem to have added to convince themselves that these women are different from each other.

Same thing can be said about the actors. They are all models who have been asked to accessorise their costumes a little differently from each other but else the body language, the mannerisms, the thought process, are all more or less, identical. Vidya Balan of course stands out. The powerful actress that she is, she blends in too. After the initial exposition, she becomes more and more Begum Jaan and less Vidya Balan. Other than her though, it is only Chunkey Pandey who moves you – his first scene in the film is enough to send a chill down the spine. That the film doesn't capitalise on his acting any further is only a shame.

That there is no depth in the writing keeps coming back to you in different shapes and forms - be it in the situation, the involvement with characters or even the dialogue. It doesn't help that until the interval, everything you see you know from the trailer. And yet, there are a couple of things that you would expect to happen and they don't. That in its own way is refreshing. However, some of the unpredictable things are also made so for effect and seem out of place.

Moreover, the drama - extended length of scene, over-written dialogue, loud background score, husky voices (because you know, they are sex-workers) - makes some parts of the film almost unbearable.

That is pretty much symbolic of almost everything about the film. Whether it is one of the two impactful moments in the film or the overall concept itself – it all seems just skin deep.

- meeta, a part of the audience

31 reviewers(?) - 3 yays 12 so-so 16 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...The seasoned actors -- Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapur and Rajesh Sharma -- are dependable. Ila Arun deserved a meatier part. Sumit Nijhawan is alright.... full review

Thumbs up, by Smita V Kumar, Desi Martini : ...extremely powerful screenplay with dialogues that strike at your heart and for some very powerful acting not just by Vidya Balan but each and every person in the ensemble... full review

Thumbs up, by Meena Iyer, Times of India : ...The Holi number is peppy with striking visuals. Otherwise having the 11 women in one frame becomes nothing but a screech-fest... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...the key bold sequences and dialogues at times leave you stunned unexpected from the faces on screen. But they together do not generate any collective effect you can take back home, becoming the biggest shortcoming of the film unable to convey its well-intentioned important social message... full review

So-So, by ROHIT BHATNAGAR, Deccan Chronicle : ...Vidya Balan, in an attempt to earn the next National award, overplayed in few scenes but obviously, she knows how to cheat and turn an average scene into gold... full review

So-So, by Dev Raj Gulati, Desi Martini : ...the partition back drop is incidental and could have been omitted ... full review

So-So, by Yogesh Pawar, DNA : ...Blessed with an equally large cast and a budget which is over 4,800% higher, one expected a classic that would mark the new 24-karat standard on films on this subject, but it lets you down.... full review

So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...Had his film's technical departments lived up to the level of his vision, Begum Jaan would’ve been a resounding story of women empowerment. ... full review

So-So, by Indranil Majumdar, : ...Begum Jaan is Mukherji's way of paying tribute to the path-breaking works of Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto. The film also draws heavily from Shyam Benegal's Mandi in aspects of plot and attire. What it misses though is the dexterity that accompanies the novelty in thought in the others.... full review

So-So, by Manujsha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...While the first half is an extended version of the trailer and is laborious, the second half picks up pace considerably... full review

So-So, by Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times : ...Vidya Balan adds her persona and charm to Begum Jaan and dominates the screen from the word go... full review

So-So, Indicine : ... it’s execution may not be upto scratch but it says a lot of pertinent things about the subcontinent and its people... full review

So-So, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ... The sub-text is rather important, if not even more relevant. Which is quite simply that when the world chooses to divide itself in hoards—Left, Right; India, Pakistan; Hindu, Muslim—what happens to the muted, neutral, centrist?... full review

So-So, by Jaidev Hemmady, Movie Talkies : ... there is something insincere about her throaty growl and menacing scowl that rankles, especially when we have seen Balan at her best in a film like Kahaani... full review

So-So, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ... Ironically, in this house of sex workers, most of the moaning and screaming doesn't happen behind closed doors but in the courtyard where the occupants often indulge in empty banter.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sreeju Sudhakaran , Bollywood Life : ... Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Vivek Mushran and Chunky Pandey (what an evil makeover!) stand out... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Bharadwaj, Desi Martini : ... go watch The Dirty Picture , Vidya Balan made a far better stand for “bad” women in that one.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anna MM Vetticad, FirstPost : ...everything about Begum Jaan’s brothel, from its location to its occupants and customers, is intended as a metaphor for a happily multi-cultural India being torn apart against her will... full review

Thumbs down, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The brutality of it is sure to leave you disenchanted... full review

Thumbs down, by Vishal Verma, : ...Over blown, deliberately hysterical and forcefully sensational... full review

Thumbs down, by Anish Mohanty, Kia Gia : ...Despite the core idea being promising, he fails to conjure it all up in a film that would is not even remotely interesting.... full review

Thumbs down, by Surabhi Redkar, koimoi : ...Coming to characters, there’s not much detailing that we learn about the rest of the girls because, majority of the time is spent in scenes where they bond and little is known about their background. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...Balan initially plays Begum Jaan as a steely manipulator but, as the film progresses, she’s made to hyperventilate and flail about like a less capable actor.... full review

Thumbs down, by Raja Sen, NDTV : ... when actors like Balan and Naseeruddin Shah are elevating the material and making the words sound intriguing or sinister, the background score plays spoilsport and frantic shehnaai is thrown in... full review

Thumbs down, by Rajeev Masand, : ...It doesn’t help that the narrative is routinely sidetracked by examples of Razia Sultan, the Rani of Jhansi, and Rani Padmavati of Mewar... full review

Thumbs down, by Manisha Lakhe, Now : ...Please don't miss the moralising, the speech-ification: 'Chaati kya hai? Maans hai' (What are breasts, but meat) and so on by Gauhar Khan is unbearable rather than 'acting' with a chance of an award. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Sreehari Nair, Rediff : ...makes a lot of noise, cuts a lot of throats, but sucks up to kiddie-ideas of history and revolution... full review

Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...Mukerji is unable to suggest a working or professional relationship between these women who live under the same roof, which makes their latter-reel solidarity unconvincing. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...Much of the crudity in dialogue and scenes seems deliberately aimed at sensationalising, eliciting wolf-whistles from the male audience rather than being sensitive to women.... full review

Thumbs down, by Spotboye, yahoo! India : ...this buffet of hysteria, hyper-exaggeration and brain-fry, is quite frankly indigestible... full review

Thumbs down, by IANS, Zee News : ...The background score by Anu Malik elevates the viewing experience... full review

30 tweeters(?) - 19 yays 3 so-so 8 nays

SRKian_Aliya: Watch Begum Jaan if you haven't !

shafiqulhasan81: #BegumJaan Even With Flaws Wins Hearts With Élan #MovieReview #Bollywood

nitinsharmampi6: Begam jaan is an awesome movie not bcoz I m fan of anyone of them its just bcoz they show harsh reality of our society & mentality of people

nikoo_sharma: BEGUM JAAN is a classic piece of art, great work guys. something worth cherish after long time. @vidya_balan @GAUAHAR_KHAN kudos to all

NidaAnam3: Watched Begum jaan ..., outstanding

MoGoSheeks99: Begum Jaan Review: Vidya Balan with her women gang slams patriarchy right into its face

Kanchankryst735: Begum Jaan is awsome #movie . Acting of the entire cast is rad. Never thought d result of partition, to this human community. #begumjaan

Kabramoin18: Begum jaan is amazing movie @vidya_balan

iakankshajindal: Begum jaan ❤ I am out of words seriously. I can't express my feelings for the movie. @GAUAHAR_KHAN ma'am as Rubina…

i_Arhaan: Begum Jaan was surprisingly good

harshktweets: DEEP REVIEW: Begum Jaan**** @vidya_balan @GAUAHAR_KHAN @VisheshFilms

Essentialvirla: Begum Jaan can change the way how our society thinks towards the women atrocities

dhillonaman: Begum Jaan is good cinema, if you feel the tragedy of the people who weren't even once asked before making them...

ddpthorat: Begum Jaan a superb movie..Must see for the acting of Vidya Balan with a strong Story line..Strong Contender for Best Actress and Director

coolabrez: Begum jaan a wonderful movie. With a great message.

charmar_sra: Begum Jaan What a movie Awesome performances from all the actors specially @vidya_balan @GAUAHAR_KHAN You both nailed it

BookMyBollywood: 11 women who put up a tough fight, here are 5 reasons why you should watch #BegumJaan: #Bollywood

alpharay63: #begum jaan Mind-blowing movie. Real story. Voice of AB. Screenplay. Art. Cinematography and lastly no doubt #Bidya .just amazing.

123Vipin1: Begum Jaan one of the best movie I have seen so far... Loved every character in the movie..Nd music , screenplay everything about the movie.

SaluHeer: Just saw begum jaan vidya is good but needs to stop doing single women escentric roles. This movie is 2.5 out of 5. Flop movie vidya can act

movizark: ‘Begum Jaan’ is watchable for Balan’s performance, but falls short due to its loud…

BollyOutsider: Begum Jaan is so so. - Bollywood Outsider #My Forecast

svf2109: Begum jaan,overhyped rubbish,overrated fat middle aged actor thinks that shouting out a few m's and B's is good acting.dull and boring.

sohini_6: "As a Bollywood remake, Begum Jaan fails to rebuild the same essence and integrity of the bengali original Rajkahini"

silverscreenin: BegumJaan is a trifle pretending to be a serious drama about feminism and politics. Read our review:

sbose1980: Begam Jaan came to be a total disgrace for Vidya Balan and the rest.....

Naa_Cheese: If I had a gun with 2 bullets in a room with Hitler, Osama, & the guy who made Begum Jaan, I would shoot the guy who made Begum Jaan twice.

LegalKant: ‘Begum Jaan’ is an assault on the senses

hollybollybuzz: Begum Jaan movie review: Vidya Balan’s acting abilities crumble under the burden of this over dramatic mess

FilmySasi: With all its mind-numbing loudness, Srijit Mukherji's #BegumJaan is surprisingly ineffective!

2 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 1 nays

So-So, by lokesh kumar : its a one time watch movie.. story is not soo good except Vidhya Acting

Nay! Thumbs Down, by Fan

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Lots. Sexual violence, gun fights, gory concepts, etc
  • Language: Lots of abusive language
  • Nudity & Sexual content: The film is set in a brothel with a quite a few scenes of sex-workers with their clients.
  • Concept: A brothel falls in line of a new border between two new countries.
  • General Look and Feel: Loud. The texture is even within the setting of a desert.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Begum Jaan - Cast, crew, links

Lead Cast:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
140 minutes

Comments (2)

Click here for new comment

Well this movie failed to impress the audience.


Horrible film.

Everything about it is loud. Characters are loud, music is loud, dialogues are loud, treatment is loud. Every girl playing the prostitute thinks that she is either Jay or Veeru playing a role in Sholay. The situations are nonsensical. Dialogues are written by someone who seems to have had something illegal to smoke. This is a movie which might have worked in the 1980s but certainly not in 2017. Too dramatic, every one barring Vidhya Balan is trying to overact and over achieve in that department compared to everyone else. A stupid film about a brothel in the middle of nowhere where an international border is to be drawn. Why the drama and emotions? Just shift the kotha by few metres and all is well. Anyways the kotha is in the middle of nowhere, who the heck will care if it is moved few metres to the east or west.

Absolutely a pointless film.

Only saving grace is Vidhya Balan, and surprise of surprise Chunky Pandey. But still the two together are not reasons enough to suffer this cacophony.

Leave a Comment