Category Archives: film

Movie Review: Begum Jaan by Srijit Mukherjee

 

I had rated Rajkahini on my blog 4/5 stars – the film had moved me, left me in tears as the end credits rolled. So, when I walked into the theatre today to watch Begum Jaan, there was trepidation in my heart. It was almost like I’d be tested as an audience to what extent I can separate the Rajkahini experience from Begum Jaan. Might I say, Srijit Mukherjee made it very easy because the first sequence itself was starkly different from the theatrical adaptation of Manto’s work that Rajkahini began with. I was at ease and for the next 130 odd minutes became a part of the kotha on Indo-Pak border that fought independence for freedom.

While Rajkahini was set in Bengal, Begum Jaan is based in Punjab. Abanindranath Thakur’s Rajkahini played a significant role in the film, specially in the end; here Ila Arun’s character tells stories of feisty daughters of India (which were cleverly depicted by Vidya in the film). While the basic premise of the film remained the same as Rajkahini, there were many changes to the script – some good, some bad. The Connaught Place sequence was a fitting addition to the film. The additional scene between Gulabo-Rubina was emotive. Several characters have been given a closure in the end, another creative input.

Vidya Balan – my favourite actress for the last decade and a half – was originally approached for Rajkahini. I always wondered how different the film would’ve been with her (Rituparna Sengupta gave her career best performance as Begum Jaan, so no comparisons). She steals the show with her bold, gritted, fiery portrayal of the brothel owner who would go to any extent to save her vatan, her kotha.

Rubina (wonderfully portrayed by Joya Ehsan) was my favourite character from Rajkahini who had the most beautiful scene ever written in Bengali cinema in recent times. Gauhar Khan has done justice to the part. Also, the great Naseeruddin Shah gave gravity to a role which was oft not remembered from Rajkahini.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the supporting cast. The sense of loss and vengeance was missing from Ilias and Srivastava. Even some scenes where half their faces were shown did not aesthetically look as good as they did with Saswata-Kaushik. Their chemistry was somehow lacking. Gulabo was expressionless when confronted with the ultimate betrayal. Chunkey Pandey as Kabir was menacing enough but did not evoke the same horror and hate as Jishu Sengupta did in Rajkahini.

I felt the narrative moved a bit fast, so we could not connect to these characters in totality. The Holi song was completely out of place and the background score did not do justice to several great scenes – like the manhunt in the butchers’ market. However, the climax choked me as usual. ‘Woh subah hum hee se ayegi’ was a great substitute for ‘Bharat Bhagyo Bidhata’ and the visuals would simply stupefy you into a state of forbearance.

And above all, the last visual you take home with you as you walk out after Begum Jaan – that look on Vidya’s face when she closes the door of the kotha, that look of victory but the sense of loss, juxtaposed with the fluttering of the tricolour, will even make a heart of stone let the tears flow.

I had always wondered how would a sequel of Rajkahini be with Buchki (Laadli) in the lead. Begum Jaan has given us a glimpse of it. Begum Jaan and Rajkahini are two different films, for two different audiences. Comparisons would not be fair. Both shine in their own right.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Pink and Parched – Triumph of Indian cinema

The month of September has been a treat Indian cine-goers with meaningful films like Island City, Pink (and now Parched) adding to the delight in the midst of all the balderdash.

Last week’s release, Pink was a strong statement against the deep-rooted misogyny in our society. With his very crafty use of subtlety and brutal realism, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury taught us when a woman says ‘No’ it means no.

The strong screen presence of Amitabh Bachchan and Piyush Mishra, accentuated by the bold performances of Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Taring and Angad Bedi, truly complemented the effortless writing and skilled camerawork that made the thriller-cum-courtroom drama a treat for the senses.

 

pink-movie-poster

Pink Movie Poster

 

Pink gives us a message without being preachy. It deals with the oft-so-repeated clichés about feminism, but the fresh treatment drives home the message so effortlessly that you are numbed by the time end credits roll.

The one scene from the court, where Palak breaks down in the face of constant grilling of the prosecution is extremely relevant in our times. So what if a woman takes money in lieu of sexual favours? It is well within her rights to say no, and when she does no one dare force her into bed!

In fact, out of the three female protagonists, Palak will remain my favourite. With shades of grey, she is the weakest among the lot – but when harassed to the point of brink, she stands up to the bullying boys and refuses to cow down!

The best thing about Pink is that the film does not offer us any scope of being judgmental. The incident at Surajkund which triggers the chain of events in the film, is shown in the end credits – the audience keeps guessing and putting pieces together based on the witness accounts in the courtroom.

At a time when rapes have become just another headline in the inside pages of newspapers, molestation is commonplace and eve-teasing sort of birth right for the men, Pink brilliantly tears down the false notion that women who drink, socialise or solicit with men, are inviting them for sex.


While Pink deals with four middle-class girls from South Delhi, Parched is set in the deserts of rural Rajasthan; an antithesis of the urban saga. It is the story of four women who are ‘outcasts’ even in the 21st century.

Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is a widow who weds his teenage son to a 15-year old Janki. Although Janki (Lehar Khan) has a lover in her village, she is forcefully wedded to Gulab (Riddhi Sen) for money. To foil the wedding, Janki even sacrifices her prized possession – her waist-length hair, thus becoming a laughing stock in the village.

 

parched

A scene from Parched

 

Rani’s friend and soulmate in the village Lajjo (Radhika Apte) is a happy soul save the fact she is unable to bear a child. Obviously, the husband thinks it is the fault of the woman as men can never be infertile. Her barrenness is a reason for misery and nocturnal abuse for Lajjo. Rani has another friend, Bijli (Surveen Chawla) who dances at the ‘tamasha’ by the evening and sleeps with men for money at night.

‘Parched’ in true sense is a film about women’s liberation. It is not coincidental thus the climax occurs on ‘Dashami’, the last day of Durga Puja (or Navratri in the part of India where the story is set). These four women, cocooned in their worlds, have their share of fun. They joke about men, come up with curse-words named after men (move over MC, BC), seek solace in each other and are also involved in making handicrafts for a local self-help group.

Patriarchy comes in any form – whether it is the abusive husband or the brash son who looks down upon his widow mother, or even the customers who think they own a woman because they have paid for her for the night. Society deals a rough blow to the four women but they refuse to be bogged down. Their thirst for freedom in this parched land keeps them going.

Tannishtha Chatterjee and Radhika Apte are both strong actors with their own legacy and do full justice to the roles. Surveen Chawla is a revelation as Bijli. This confident young girl refuses to let go of her aspirations even when a new ‘tamasha’ girls forays into the circus or when the man she thought understood her desire for freedom fails to live up to her expectations.

Leena Yadav’s film is raw, bold and real. She drives home the message that women have the right to decide the course of their lives, no one else. The whole film has an earthy feel and the dialogues are at times raunchy. The writing has various shades – from gloomy to boisterous, as is life.


Films like Pink and Parched need to be made more often. More stories like these need to told if the centuries-old patriarchy has to be eliminated. Thanks to Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Leena Yadav for making a start.

 

My Rating: 4/5 stars to both the films

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Pose Have Their Respective Copyrights

%d bloggers like this: