The much awaited (largely by the urban Bengali audience) trailer for Begum Jaan, Srijit Mukherjee’s maiden venture in Bollywood remaking his own 2015 Bengali film Rajkahini, is finally out. And the unthinkable has happened! There is no point pretending that there was a lot of hype and expectations surrounding this film, especially in the context of the larger Bollywood Market. And it’s an even more dubious proposition trying to gauge the expectation from the director by his ardent admirers. But the two minutes fifty five seconds audio visual currently running on YouTube is almost a clone of its Bengali counterpart which came out on Independence Day 2015! Other than the actors, nearly everything else looks like a replica.
For those who had just landed here and are unaware about the director or the film(s) in question, Begum Jaan deals with a brothel during the time of independence of India under the supervision of the strong willed titular character. The geographical location of the brothel puts it right along the proposed line of partition between India and Pakistan and hence the inhabitants including the pimps and prostitutes are handed over an eviction notice. Things turn violent when the women refuse to leave the house and the officials resort to the use of brute force, executing their orders.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) March 1, 2017
The said trailer, in itself is an extremely shabby piece of work. It seems that the makers are too clueless about their point of focus and are jumping from the voice over by Amitabh Bachchan to production values like sets and costumes to tacky one-liners and finally anchoring on the presence of actors, primarily Vidya Balan and flanked by Naseeruddin Shah, Rajit Kapoor and Chunky Pandey in a resurrected avatar. Even the shot selection, especially the crane shots of the brothel, is an alarming indication about expectations from the editing department. As for everything else, right from the second unit shots which are re-used from the Bengali film, to the loud acting with a hoarse voice by Vidya Balan which is replicating Rituparna Sengupta’s performance in the Rajkahini, to the excerpts of dialogue being translated from Bengali to Hindi, changing the East Bengal (Bangal) accent into a Punjabi one to the general colour palette including the costumes and make up have nothing new to offer. Remaking a regional film into Hindi, aimed at a larger market is hardly a new phenomenon. Considering mainstream Hindi Cinema, Asit Sen would be the ideal example. Shakti Samanta probably would’ve been the worst, in aesthetic terms. However Bengali Film Industry’s self-proclaimed ‘First Boy’ has taken it to a different level. By setting a new ‘artistic’ benchmark for stooping low, he has so far managed the first con-job in the name of filmmaking; the worst form of marketing strategy where the same product is sold by adding ‘New’ to its name. The trailer has been a humiliating experience. And with Rajkahini as its ‘take off’ point, the film might just have more horrors in store!
Arup Ratan Samajdar