Begum Jaan is a 2017 Indian Hindi period drama film. It is written and directed by National Film Award-winning director Srijit Mukherji and produced by Mukesh Bhatt, Vishesh Bhatt and Play Entertainment. The film is co-produced by Sakshi Bhatt and Shree Venkatesh Films with executive producer Kumkum Saigal. The cinematography is done by Gopi Bhagat. Lyrics, additional screenplay and dialogues have been penned by Kausar Munir and Rahat Indori.
The film was released on 14 April 2017. Vidya Balan plays the lead role of a brothel’s madam, set in the backdrop of late Indian Independence period of 1948. It is a Hindi remake of the critically acclaimed Bengali film Rajkahini (2015). The film managed to recover its costs and was declared “Average”.
Movie opens with a small family and a young couple travelling in public transport in the late night, while the family getting down at their stop, a group of drunk goons gets into the bus and harasses the couple and tries to rape her where an old woman, saves the girl, undressing herself. Now the movie goes back to 1947. In August 1947, after India sought independence from the British, the Last Viceroy of India, Mountbatten gave Cyril Radcliffe, the responsibility of dividing India into two parts – India and Pakistan. Radcliffe drew two lines – one in Punjab and another one in Bengal. This line was known as the Radcliffe Line.
Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) is a prostitute who runs a brothel between the cities of Shakargarh and Dorangla. The prostitutes in Begum Jaan’s brothel are a number of girls she raised herself, who were either abandoned or disowned by their families and now work for her. The members of the brothel include an elderly woman known as Amma (Ila Arun), Sujeet (Pitobash Tripathy), a local worker who brings her customers and Salim (Sumit Nijhawan), a gunman who guards them and also two dogs. They are pestered by government officers Hari Prasad (Ashish Vidyarthi), Ilyas Khan (Rajit Kapoor) and Inspector Shyam Singh (Rajesh Sharma) who visit her and ask all of the residents to evict the brothel, as it lies on the land that the Radcliffe Line is to pass through. Love is shown to blossom between Sujeet and Rubina (Gauhar Khan). Begum Jaan’s brothel is looked after by Raja Sahib (Naseeruddin Shah), under whose protection, they are safe and sound. He pays their taxes and duties. Begum Jaan sends message to him for his help in this matter. He arrives at the brothel with gifts and presents for them and after hearing about their plight, he assures them of help by stating that he would be going to Delhi soon and discuss the matter there. However, he demands to spend the night with young Shabnam (Mishti Chakraborty), who had recently joined the brothel as a mental wreck after abuse. Begum Jaan reluctantly forces Shabnam to sleep with Raja Sahib while she sings in the sidelines as he enjoys his night.
After several failed attempts to convince Begum Jaan and her team to leave despite giving them a month’s notice, as a last resort, Hari and Ilyas, enlist the help of Kabir (Chunky Pandey), an infamous killer in Sonapur, to threaten Begum with her members to vacate the brothel. Raja Sahib returns to the brothel one day to inform Begum Jaan that his efforts to save her brothel have failed and now she must vacate the brothel. Begum, who was having hopes from Raja Sahib is shocked in dismay. Still, she stubbornly tells Raja Sahib come what may, she’ll rather die in her house like a queen than die on the streets like a beggar. Kabir proceeds to kill Begum’s beloved dogs, even feeding their meat to Begum and her girls. He then kills Sujeet while he is returning from the market with a few other girls of the brothel. He persuades the girls to escape while sacrificing his life. This killing enrages Begum Jaan and her members further. As a result of Kabir’s intimidation tactics, Begum asks Salim to train every one of her girls to use weapons and fight back. Intensive training practice sessions are held.
Meanwhile, Masterji (Vivek Mushran), Laadli’s teacher, is in love with Begum Jaan and proposes to her, unaware that another prostitute named Gulabo (Pallavi Sharda), harbors feelings for him as well. Begum Jaan rejects his proposal and asks him to leave, leading an irate Master to concoct a plan to kill her. He convinces Gulabo to run away from the brothel, betraying Begum Jaan. Gulabo does so but Masterji spurns her and gets her raped by his accomplices inside a horse carriage. She vows vengeance.
That same night, Kabir and his men attack the brothel. Laadli her mother and shabnam are forced to run away and are attacked by the policeman Shyam Singh, who seeks benefit from them, but laadli undresses herself which reminds him his ten years old daughter and he cries and asks her to stop. Begum and the girls fight back but to no avail. Gulabo returns and later slits Masterji’s throat, while he is witnessing the attack on the brothel by Kabir and his goons. However, she has been badly assaulted by Masterji’s accomplices and dies. The goons throw lighted torches inside the brothel, causing the building to be engulfed in flames. Begum Jaan and her girls put up a determined fight. Many are killed. She and her four surviving members smile while looking at their home being set ablaze; they walk inside the building and shut the doors. They burn to death as Amma narrates the story of Rani Padmavati of Chittorgarh, who refused to fall into the hands of the enemy and instead martyred herself and died a valiant death, just like the plight of Begum Jaan.
As the movie ends, Ilyas and Hari are seen to be remorseful of their actions; Ilyas shoots himself and we are shown the remains of the brothel and the end to the Begum Jaan legacy.
Vidya Balan as Begum Jaan
Ila Arun as Amma
Gauhar Khan as Rubina
Pallavi Sharda as Gulabo
Priyanka Setia as Jameela
Ridheema Tiwary as Amba
Flora Saini as Maina
Raviza Chauhan as Lata
Poonam Rajput as Rani
Mishti Chakraborty as Shabnam
Gracy Goswami as Laadli
Pitobash Tripathy as Surjeet
Sumit Nijhawan as Salim
Ashish Vidyarthi as Hari Prasad
Chunky Pandey as Kabir
Rajit Kapoor as Ilias Khan
Vivek Mushran as Masterji
Rajesh Sharma as Shyam
Naseeruddin Shah as Raja Sahib
Ashok Dhanuka as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Sanjay Gurbaxani as Jawaharlal Nehru
Dicky Banerjee as Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Patrick Eyre as Louis Mountbatten
Steve Burroughs as Hastings Ismay
Raja Biswas as Cyril Radcliffe
Dilip Dave as an old customer of Gulabo