The Common Man Speaks

30Jul/170

Short Story: The Release Of My First Film

Yari Road in Andheri is a contradictory locality in Mumbai. On the one hand, you find some super-rich businessmen and senior-most employees living in their posh houses. At the same time, it is also home to some rank strugglers from the film industry. They arrive in the city from small towns in large numbers just to get that one big break in films. But only a handful of them get their dreams fulfilled.

Before they make it big, they live literally in poverty. Many stay in crowded rented flats; not knowing whether they would be able to pay next month’s rent. They don’t have meals. They only eat food. And this includes anything that’s cheaply available or easy to make.

But despite living in such conditions and facing rejection time and again, these strugglers never lose hope. This was the mantra for Sumeet also, who finally has a glimmer of hope for making it big in Hindi cinema or Bollywood, as they call it. After years of struggling as an AD (assistant director), he somehow got a chance of directing his first movie at the age of 27 last year.

Movie clapboardTitled Zameen, his film is based on the sad situation of farmers in Maharashtra and how they are forced to commit suicide due to drought, which increases their financial woes. With such a subject, naturally it was tough convince a producer. Shooting the film in Marathwada was a herculean task, especially with the shoestring budget provided to him since it was a ‘non-commercial’ subject.

After more than a year of making it, Zameen was just 10 days away from release. Even experienced director feel butterflies in their stomachs, so what to say about a debut filmmaker? Sumeet was someone who appeared calm from outside even if there was a storm inside him, like it was these days.

Such super low-budget films ensure that the makers are left with hardly any funds for proper marketing and promotions. At times, even a mere media screening proves to be harmful to the pockets. This burdens the director and the main cast to come up with cheap or no-cost promotional activities. Their situation is the same as those door-to-door salesmen, who are desperate to sell their product.

After continuously posting about his film on social media platforms, Sumeet somehow managed to organize a small promotional activity at a mall at Yari Road just two days before the release. It was the ideal place to attract the high society crowd, who could afford the abnormal ticket rates at multiplexes.

A handsome man who looked in his early 30s approached Sumeet out of nowhere along with his group of 5-6 friends. He displayed his status through his branded clothes, shoes and sun-glasses, which were tucked in his shirt. After introducing himself as Sunny, he told Sumeet how impressed he was with the trailer of his film.

“It is refreshing to see someone making a film on such important issues in today’s times,” added Sunny. Sumeet was obviously overjoyed. After an informal chat that lasted for few minutes, Sunny and his friends promised to see Zameen on the weekend. Sumeet urged them to share their honest view with him, to which they agreed.

The interaction with Sunny and his friends infused new hope in Sumeet. But on the day of the release, he became as anxious as he was before. Films falling in the parallel cinema genre with unknown actors hardly get an audience on the opening day. Sumeet knew this well, so he didn’t check the online booking scenario on Friday.

But he kept logging in to an online booking website on Saturday morning to know if there is any advance booking for his film. He checked a nearby multiplex and could see only 2-3 seats booked. He encouraged himself by thinking that Sunny and his friends would surely see the film in any of these two days. And hopefully, they would spread the word if they like it.

On Saturday night, Sunny and company did decide to see the film, as promised. Few minutes into the film, Sunny told his friend seated besides him, “Thanks to the digital era, we get such good quality picture in downloaded films.”

By: Keyur Seta

23Jul/170

Lipstick Under My Burkha Review

When Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha was refused certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (or popularly known as the censor board) for being ‘lady oriented,’ I felt this film might have frightened those who give a damn about various desires of women. Now, after watching the film, I am fully convinced about it.

Lipstick Under My Burkha is about the struggle of survival of four women in a highly patriarchal environment in Bhopal. Leela (Aahana Kumra) is in a relationship with a photographer (Vikrant Massey) but her mother has forced her to marry an ‘ideal’ guy (Vaibbhav Tatwawadi). Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) is from a highly conservative family and has to follow the tradition of burkha. But she is itching to break free from the traditions.

Shirin’s (Konkona Sen Sharma) husband (Sushant Singh) works in Saudi Arabia. Whenever he returns home for a short break, he uses her as a sex toy. She has hidden from him the fact that she works as a saleswoman. Usha aka Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a widow and a landlady of an old building. Her sexual desire has resurfaced as she has started reading an erotic novel, Lipstick Wale Sapne.

Lipstick Under My Burkha posterHere’s a scene from the film. An engagement ceremony is going on and suddenly the electricity goes off. The girl, who is getting engaged, is found having a quickie with the photographer. This is how the frankness of LUMB can be summed up. Many of you might label her act blasphemous. But there is a deep meaning about not only what she but all the four main characters do in the film.

In other words, the bold sexual content is added not just to stand apart or get noticed. It is a natural part of the script. So, in a way, the film is more real than bold. The manner in which the sexual desire of a 50 plus year old widow is dealt with deserves special mention.

But LUMB is not just about its daring sexual content. It’s also an example of an intelligent piece of cinema. The film achieves high standards in writing and presentation. This can be said for the way you get involved in the lives of the four characters. Moreover, their issues about lack of respect and dignity are presented convincingly with minimal use of dialogue and some witty humour.

The film, however, comes with a few hiccups. The criminal act of one character doesn’t go with her nature. Although the open-ended climax suits here, it should have produced a bigger bang considering the hard-hitting nature of the film. There are some minor logical errors too.

The performances are a treat. Aahana Kumra packs a punch as someone who doesn’t shy away flaunting her desires; be it any. It seems Plabita Borthakur was born to play this role. She is excellent and is a lookout for the future. Ratna Pathak Shah excels in a terribly difficult role. Her portrayal of an old woman feeling sexual hunger isn’t cheap or vulgar whatsoever and this is a big achievement.

Konkona Sen Sharma is once again reliable. Vaibbhav Tatwawadi is completely believable as a shy and traditional fiancé. The film also has fine supporting acts from Vikrant Massey, Sonal Jha, Sushant Singh and Shashank Arora.

Overall: Lipstick Under My Burkha is a daring attack on patriarchy and regressive traditions. This is the reason why Pahlaj Nihalani and his friends didn't want you to see this film and this is exactly the reason why it should be seen.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Alankrita Shrivastava

Producer: Prakash Jha

Writers: Alankrita Shrivastava, Ghazal Dhaliwal and Suhani Kanwar

Actors: Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 117 minutes

15Jul/172

Lapachhapi (Marathi Movie) Review

The biggest aim of a horror film is simple. It has to scare the audience. But this simple aim has been hardly fulfilled by Marathi and Hindi cinema. The former hasn’t been making horror films. Bollywood, on the other hand, regularly explores this genre but hardly provides a convincing film.

Debutant director Vishal Furia’s Lapachhapi fills the much needed void not only through the content but also the technical departments. Finally, we have an impressive horror film!

Lapachhapi is about a couple, Tushar (Vikram Gaikwad) and his pregnant wife Neha (Pooja Sawant). They escape to their driver’s native place after Tushar gets beaten up for not being able to repay his creditors. It’s a secluded village scattered around sugarcane fields.

Lapachhapi Marathi movieThe scary atmosphere is enough to ring an alarm bell inside Neha’s head. But Tushar assures her that there’s nothing to worry. The driver’s wife Tulsa’s (Usha Naik) warm hospitality diverts her mind but not for long. At the same time, we are also told the story of a pregnant woman who was forced to abort her unborn child.

Lapachhapi succeeds in taking the audience to a world where creepiness exists in a natural way. The location over here is an altogether different character that brings in a scary feeling throughout. The film has a smooth-flowing screenplay that divulges the tale in a gradual way.

The major reason for the chills is the contemporary manner of filming. It is impressive to see how cinematography (Chandan Kowli) is used to create jump-scare moments which are simply pleasurable! The same purpose is achieved by the editing too. The blackening of the screen abruptly and the smart use of sounds add to the scariness. Thankfully, the film steers clear of using loud noises and screams to create forceful horror.

And who would have thought of using a lullaby to induce horror? The song, sung by Nandini Borkar, is a sweet number with no music. So, how it creates a frightening feeling is something that can be experienced than explained. Its use should have been limited in the second half though.

There are points, however, that stop the film from achieving bigger heights. The main issue here is the lack of proper conviction in the back story, although the message driven out of it is important. On some occasions in the second half, the narrative becomes overindulgent. A conversation between the lead couple in the first half is a slight giveaway of the hidden issue. The final scene, although impressive, is too convenient.

The performances also complement the genre. This act might be the turning point in Pooja Sawant’s career. She got a chance to play a challenging lead character and she has made good use of it. But the effect wouldn’t have been this high without Usha Naik’s act. She shows sympathy and anger with remarkable ease.

Although Vikram Gaikwad isn’t present throughout, he is appealing. Dhanashree Khandar gives a fine act without uttering a word.

Overall: Lapachhapi fills the void of horror movies in Marathi cinema and also for the audience in Maharashtra that has relied on Bollywood for this genre of films.

Rating: 3/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Vishal Furia

Producers: Wild Elephants Motion Picture and Midas Touch Movies Production

Writers: Vishal Furia and Vishal Kapoor

Cast: Pooja Sawant, Usha Naik, Vikram Gaikwad, Dhanashree Khandar

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 111 minutes

9Jul/171

Mom Review

The basic plot of debutant director Ravi Udyawar’s Mom is eerily similar to Raveena Tandon starrer Maatr: The Mother, which had released in April (read the review of Maatr HERE). Not just the storyline, even few characters are the same.

But as both films were in production at the same time, it would be unfair to accuse Mom of plagiarism (One can argue that Maatr itself was similar to Raveena’s own Jaago [2004]).

But there is a huge dissimilarity in both films with regards to its content. The Sridevi starrer is miles ahead of the Raveena starrer. Such is the difference in the making that even if you have seen Maatr (like I have), it won’t stop you from appreciating Udyawar’s film.

Mom is about Devki Sabharwal (Sridevi), who is a school teacher in Delhi. She stays with her husband, elder daughter Arya (Sajal Ali), younger daughter and husband (Adnan Siddiqui). Arya is Devki’s student in school. But she addresses her as ‘Mam’ even at home due to a reason. Devki tries hard to express her love for Arya but to no avail.

Mom Sridevi posterOne day, a shocking incident that happens with Arya devastates the family. It also further increases the distance between her and Devki.

Revenge dramas are predictable and Mom is no different. As the audience has been exposed to such storylines since decades, the challenge lies in not making them think about the predictability. Mom does that exceedingly well. You are kept hooked thanks to some creative presentation, watertight script, short yet appealing dialogues, character depth and natural conflict.

Mom stays impressive even during the most important stage – the revenge. The methods of the protagonist don’t appear unrealistic. In other words, it is as sensible as absurd Maatr was.

The film has some intelligent and effective use of background score. It is a lesson for those who believe that the only way to add thrill in such thrillers is to use loud sounds. The scene where the rape occurs deserves mention for using the background score to narrate the horrific incident. The camerawork adds to the technical brilliance here.

There was no need to rope in A R Rahman for a film that has no scope or use of songs.

Few points that stop the film from achieving greater heights are few situational errors and the way a simple film is turned complicated during the ending moments. The latter is taken care of by a moving climax though.

The performances are a treat. Sridevi lives the titular character while displaying diverse emotions with ease. She appears smart even during revenge sequences. But her south Indian accent is too noticeable on few occasions. It seems Nawazuddin Siddiqui has a divine power of not doing anything wrong, which goes here too. Adnan Siddiqui, as Sridevi’s husband, is a good find.

It is refreshing to see Akshaye Khanna in an important role of which he makes the most. Sajal Ali, as Sridevi’s daughter, possesses fine acting skills. Plus, to play a character that goes through such atrocities would have been mentally challenging. Abhimanyu Singh once again shows that he is too underrated and deserves more opportunities. The rest of the bad guys, Pitobash Tripathy and the other two actors are completely believable.

Overall: Mom is well-crafted emotional thriller. Director Ravi Udyawar has proved his tremendous potential in his very first film.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: Keyur Seta

Director: Ravi Udyawar

Producers: Boney Kapoor

Writers: Girish Kohli, Ravi Udyawar and Kona Venkat Rao

Cast: Sridevi, Sajal Ali, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna, Adnan Siddiqui

Music: A R Rahman

Genre: Revenge drama

Runtime: 147 minutes

18Jun/170

Renee’s Treasure Book Review

Good children’s films are the ones that also appeal to the grown-ups. The same goes for children’s books too. Indrani Sinha’s Renee’s Treasure falls in this category. It is a novel that goes beyond the target audience. Apart from narrating an interesting tale, it is filled with nostalgic moments.

The story is set in 1960 and it revolves around the 11-year-old girl Renee. She is smart and adventurous. She stays with her mother, whom she fondly addresses as Mamoni, father, two younger brothers, Jatin and Sonu and grandfather. Renee’s father, who is a junior engineer with railways, has been recently transferred to Varanasi from Bareilly.

Renee's Treasure bookLike every child, Renee is excited for her upcoming birthday. But this year, it’s even special since her grandfather aka Dadaji has hidden a secret gift for her, which she needs to uncover. He has strictly urged her not to disclose this to anyone, including her parents. Unfortunately, Dadaji passes away on her birthday. Now, Renee is left all by herself to search the gift. She finds help in the form of her new friends, Anil aka Sacchu and his sister Anita.

The basic plot of Renee’s Treasure itself is exciting as well as intriguing. It keeps you guessing about the gift. This coupled with a free-flowing narration with regular twists make sure you are hooked. Sinha has also smartly women thriller elements. This makes you recall the method used by Satyajit Say in his Feluda series, where there is thrill but at the same time, the mood is completely light-hearted.

The most vital aspect in such stories is the uncovering of the treasure in the end. Sinha has thankfully kept this part simple, which goes with the nature of the entire book.

The author’s language and use of words plays a large role in making the book appealing to both kids and grown-ups. The little ones would enjoy the story and mystery. But adults would also find high doses of nostalgia. The children’s antics in school and home would surely bring back memories of their younger days. The book indirectly gives a message that life was indeed simple and more pleasurable for children back then.

There are few issues that limit the book’s greatness. The long bygone era of 1960 isn’t felt much. It rather looks like the book is based in the early 1990s. On few occasions, the narration gets too descriptive. There is a romantic angle between two teachers in the school. Although it is cute, we wonder about its relevance with the main story.

Overall: Renee’s Treasure is an intriguing as well as light-hearted nostalgic saga. It has the potential of impressing both children and grown-ups.

Author: Indrani Sinha

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Pages: 145

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 150

Cover: Beautiful painting that induces nostalgia and the joys of simple life

11Jun/170

South Africa won this world series but hardly anyone remembers

(This is the 2nd episode in my 'Forgotten Cricket Moments' series. For the 1st episode, click HERE.)

In the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy, India comprehensively defeated South Africa today in a do-or-die encounter at the Oval, London. It can also be said that South Africans once again lived up to their nickname – chokers.

The team has been consistently falling apart in crunch games in world series since 1996 Quarterfinal loss against West Indies (I don’t blame them for the 1992 World Cup Semi-Final defeat). Following this, three or four generations have continued the tradition of succumbing in big games in ICC tournaments.

With today’s loss, South Africa has failed to reach another final of a world series. At least, this is the general belief.

Now, what if I tell you that South Africa has not only been in the final of a world series but also won the trophy? No, I am not talking about the triumph of its Under 19 or Under 15 team, but the proper men’s team.

South Africa’s first achievement in that series was that it reached its first final by defeating Sri Lanka in the Semi Final by 92 runs (Duckworth-Lewis [D/L] method).

South Africa cricket logoThe final between SA and West Indies was truly exciting. Batting first, West Indies were all out for 245 with three balls to spare. At one point, they were on their way to go past 300. They were helped by Philo Wallace’s 103 off just 102 balls with 11 fours and five sixes. But Jacques Kallis had other plans with the ball. He finished with outstanding figures of 5 for 30.

The South African openers started off well with a 54 run stand. But the team kept losing wickets and were 137 for 5 when Jonty Rhodes was sent packing. It seemed they are all set to succumb once again. But this is when the late Hansie Cronje, their captain, took matters in his own hands.

He had two crucial partnerships with Dale Benkenstein and Derek Crookes. South Africa was eventually home by six wickets and three overs to spare. Cronje was unbeaten with a responsible and brave 61, which had four fours. But it was Kallis who was declared the Man of The Match as well as the Man of The Series.

The ICC Champions Trophy started out in 1998 as ICC Knockout and the series was called Wills International Cup. As per the name, it was a knockout series participated by all test playing nations; nine at that time.

This was the world series that South Africa won. But, unfortunately, very few of us remember.

Of course, there is no denying that it is weird to see South Africa faltering so very often in crunch games in world series. But it is certainly wrong to say that they have never won any.

See the scorecard of the match HERE.

By: Keyur Seta

28May/171

Review: Sachin – A Billion Dreams

Documentaries are considered boring by the masses, at least in India. But Brahmanand S Siingh’s Pancham Unmixed, a documentary on the legendary music composer R D Burman, proved that even documentaries can be entertaining. Sachin – A Billion Dreams is the latest film in the genre to make us think this way.

Directed by James Erskine, the film tells the journey of India’s legendary cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar. Not many would know that he was a mischievous kid. But there was this purity and passion in him that stood out. Sachin was 10 years old when India won the 1983 World Cup. This was the incident that made him realize his dream of winning the World Cup for India.

Sachin took cricket seriously at the age of 11 when he started learning under coach Ramakant Acharekar. It was his elder brother Ajit who saw the potential in him and took him to Acharekar. His international career starts off as a 16-year-old youngster in November 1989 and ends 24 years later in November 2013. He retires with the satisfaction of having won the World Cup for India in 2011.

It is refreshing to see a documentary giving high importance to storytelling. The writers (Erskine and Sivakumar Ananth) have followed a feature film-like technique when it comes to adding drama and emotions. Some important events from Sachin’s life have stood out well. The incidents like his debut match, father’s demise, 2011 World Cup victory and the retirement speech deserve special mention. These moments don’t make us feel as if we are watching a documentary.

However, having witnessed Sachin’s career from close quarters, it is puzzling why these important milestones were kept away:

- The first test century holds a high place for any batsman. But Sachin’s first test hundred against England at Manchester in 1990 (also the first of his life) is not celebrated in the film like his other achievements. It was a heroic effort by the then 17-year-old to save the match for his team and remain unbeaten at 119.

- His first one-day international century (110 against Australia at Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1994) also finds no place. Sachin is known the most for his centuries in ODIs. So, what was the reason for not including his first hundred in this format?

- One of the most celebrated moments in Sachin’s career was when he won the match against South Africa in the Hero Cup as a bowler. The opposition team needed just six runs from the last over. Sachin surprised everyone by volunteering to bowl and saw India home in one of the most incredible victories at the Eden Gardens.

But the biggest downfall of Sachin – A Billion Dreams is that it hardly shows things that are not known to his fans. Those who have been following him since his early days would already know almost everything that the film features. And in today’s digital age, you can find hundreds of his interviews on the internet where he has spoken about his life.

I also wonder why Sachin and it makers have refrained from mentioning that the film is a documentary in the various promotional events. They have always maintained that it's either a film or movie.

Overall: Sachin – A Billion Dreams is an entertaining celebration of the Master Blaster. However, it is meant only for his die-hard fans.

Rating: 3/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: James Erskine

Producers: 200 Not Out Productions and Carnival Motion Pictures

Writers: James Erskine and Sivakumar Ananth

20May/170

Hindi Medium Review

As part of my profession, before the release of Hindi Medium, I had spoken to Irrfan Khan in a group interview (read it here). While answering a question, he had said that the film can be adapted in any language. Today, after watching it, I can vouch that he hadn’t said it just to promote the film.

Hindi Medium basically takes a satirical dig at the idea of looking down upon your own language (be it any) while succumbing to the pressure of English. And this is very much relevant today when the knowledge of English is equated with intelligence.

The story takes place in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) is a successful garment businessman living a comfortable lifestyle with his wife (Saba Qamar) and little daughter (Dishita Sehgal). Raj doesn’t know English and he has no problems with it. His wife, however, is his opposite.

Hindi Medium posterShe doesn’t like his desi manners and is eager to see her family move to the elite class. She feels it is necessary for their daughter to get admitted in a school where children from the wealthy class study. The conflict between Raj and his wife increase when Raj’s lack of education and English knowledge becomes a hindrance for their daughter’s admission in a high quality school.

Hindi Medium is a thoroughly entertaining fare with sensible and realistic humour. Due to a fast screenplay and witty dialogues, you don’t realize when the 133 minutes pass off. The film, however, isn’t limited to this. It has quite a few layers.

Hindi Medium basically stands out for the following messages it smartly weaves in an entertaining manner (without being preachy):

- The use of English is important in today’s times to succeed but not at the cost of your own language. Moreover, you shouldn’t be ashamed speaking in your language just to prove your ‘high status.’

- Although the film doesn’t say it directly, it shows the mirror to these so-called international schools that charge a bomb in order to develop your kid in a special way. In other words, education has been transformed into a shoddy business.

- We tend to look at the poor class of people as potential criminals. The film tries to bridge the class gap without any melodrama.

- The movie isn’t flawless though. There are flaws in the form of quite a few cinematic liberties, more so in the climax (describing them would lead to spoilers).

The high quality content wouldn’t have become so appealing without the presence of Irrfan Khan. He gives us another proof as to why he is not only one of the finest artists but also someone who can easily make you laugh. Hindi Medium is another feather in his cap.

Saba Qamar matches up to him and this only means that she knows the art of acting. Let’s hope we get to see more of her. Deepak Dobriyal is present only in one half but he puts behind a resounding impact. He is indeed a brilliant actor. As the school Principal, Amrita Singh is powerful too. Dishita Sehgal is cute and talented but doesn’t get to speak much.

Overall: Hindi Medium puts forward an important message in a hilarious way. The film hasn’t opened very well at the box office. But it surely stands a chance due to positive word-of-mouth.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Saket Chaudhary

Writers: Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary

Producers: T-Series and Maddock Films

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Dishita Sehgal, Deepak Dobriyal, Amrita Singh

Music: Sachin-Jigar

Runtime: 133 minutes

8May/170

RUMOUR ALERT! ISIS members spreading AIDS through injections

ISIS members are spreading AIDS through injection syringes by posing as someone willing to check your blood sugar levels for free. This is the latest What’s App forward message that has gone viral.

Picture: Iconexperience.com

This is what the message reads: Urgent Urgent Please reach to catch them quickly if you have people on your door and they say they are from the Faculty of Medicine so that we measure your sugars for free. as soon as you see such lady or man please immidiately inform the police because these are the people fromISIS (????) who go to the houses and r spreading AIDS virus by injections which look like insulin. please catch such people as soon as they reach you Inform and share this message with all your loved one. (forwarded as received )

Is the news true?

It just can’t be true. This is simply because there is not a single news report about any such incident anywhere on the internet. It is common sense that even if one such incident would have happened, it would have been Breaking News everywhere. It is impossible that a news reaches What’s App but doesn’t reach a single publication (print and online) or a news channel.

It is wise to check Google before forwarding any such messages.

By: Keyur Seta

14Apr/170

Begum Jaan Review

Srijit Mukherjee’s Begum Jaan has an interesting and intriguing storyline with a lot of scope for drama. But a good concept requires convincing execution in order to provide overall satisfaction. Mukherjee, as writer and director, manages this only to some extent. This results in an engaging film that lacks complete appeal.

The film is the official remake of the Bengali film Rajkahini (2015) by the same director. Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) proudly runs a brothel in Punjab in 1947. She has a group of girls working under her. Being a tough individual, she doesn’t feel ashamed of their profession.

Their life comes to a halt when India gets partitioned and the border is supposed to go through their brothel. Hence, they are told to vacate the house. But Begum and her girls would never budge. What will the authorities do now?

Rajkahini was 160 minutes long. The Hindi version is reduced to 135 minutes. This works for the film as it makes sure that the proceedings are gripping. Some dialogues at times too are praiseworthy. For example, ‘Mahina ginna humein achchhe se aata hai sahab. Sala har baar laal karke jata hai.’ The underlying message against patriarchy and the hypocrisy of the so-called elite class is also well stated.

But Begum Jaan has a major issue. You don’t feel much for the characters and their plight. This is simply because the execution lags behind in the very basic task of establishing the characters and their life story before they landed in Begum’s brothel. Even the back story of Begum is shown in a hurry. When you don’t know much about the characters, it becomes very difficult to have sympathy for them when their lives are in danger.

Furthermore, in trying to create drama, the director has resorted to too much of loudness. There are high screams by the characters and a jarring background score too. Surprisingly, there are hardly any scenes taking place outside the locality of the brothel. This coupled by its location doesn’t give a feel of Punjab, where the story is based.

Cinematographer Gopi Bhagat, however, has succeeded in artistically capturing the flick. The symbolic method of showing only the half faces of Vidyarthi and Kapur on a couple of occasions is too praiseworthy. The musical tracks are as per the need. ‘Woh Subah Humi Se Aayegi’ plays a big role in the climax.

Vidya Balan has once again succeeded in giving a powerful act. She has displayed both ruthlessness and softheartedness with ease. Unfortunately, her act becomes a victim of loudness on few occasions. Pallavi Sharda not only looks ravishing but also scores high on performance. Ila Arun is brilliant as the eldest member of Begum Jaan’s family.

Chunky Pandey comes late but leaves a resounding impact. Here is an actor who deserves more meaty roles than comical ones. Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapur provide fine acts. Vivek Mushran, known for his debut Saudagar (1991), is the surprise factor. As expected from someone like Naseeruddin Shah, he is fully believable. Pitobash Tripathy once again shows his supreme talent.

Gauahar Khan proves she is not behind when it comes to acting talent. Priyanka Setia, Ridheema Tiwary, Flora Saini, Mishti, Raviza Chauhan, Poonam Rajput and other girls of the brothel are alright. Rajesh Sharma and Sumit Nijhavan, as Salim, provide perfect support.

Overall: Begum Jaan is an average drama that deserved better execution. The film will have a tough journey at the box office. It is not expected to generate good collections.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Srijit Mukherjee

Producers: Vishesh Films

Writer: Srijit Mukherjee

Cast: Vidya Balan, Pallavi Sharda, Gauahar Khan, Ila Arun, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapur, Rajesh Sharma, Naseeruddin Shah

Music: Anu Malik and Khayyam (for the recreation of ‘Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi)

Genre: Period drama

Runtime: 135 minutes