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.
- 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](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhmT2nfc6ko “Begum Jaan 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
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
So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks Cinema.com : ...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 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 Indranil Majumdar, fullhyd.com : ...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 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 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 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 Manisha Lakhe, Now Running.com : ...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 Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...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
SRKian_Aliya: Watch Begum Jaan if you haven't !
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
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
i_Arhaan: Begum Jaan was surprisingly good
Essentialvirla: Begum Jaan can change the way how our society thinks towards the women atrocities
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
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
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"https://t.co/pWKgbo4w8A
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.
This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.