Whatever its box-office outcome, as a dark adults-certified film on a brothel during the holocaust of Partition, Begum Jaan is by no means a below-par motion picture. In fact, it has been a reinvention for so many artistes involved with the film, on and behind the screen.
Here is a check-list of the talents who have re-structured their brands and images. Of course, what comes next from each of them will consolidate or belie this situation. But as they say, true talent never dies.
1 Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt of Vishesh Films
The Bhatt brothers, known for their erotic thrillers and a plethora of franchises (Raaz, Murder, Jannat and even Aashiqui!) were going through a template-like making of corny movies and could not sink lower than Mr X, Love Games and Hamari Adhuri Kahani. With Begum Jaan, if nothing else, they have restored the banner’s (and more importantly their personal) respectability and Mahesh Bhatt’s penchant for substance (Arth, Saaransh, Naam, Kaash, Daddy, Sir, Zakham).
2 Anu Malik
This whopper talent has been under a cloud for over a decade, thanks to changing trends and music barons and filmmakers sans an iota of aesthetic sense on what appeals to Indians beyond the pub-hopping GenY. So never mind a passing Dum Laga Ke Haisha in 2015, this is Anu’s freshest and most mature score ever. The Bhatts had reinvented Anu in the ‘90s with films like Sir and Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Ayee for starters, and the composer had gone on to provide masterpieces like Naajayaz, Tamanna and Saaya in the music department for them.
3 Asha Bhosle
Reportedly, the veteran 80-plus Diva was ecstatic about ‘Prem Mein Tohre’ and told Anu that it would be her “comeback” song. Fact is, it shows how Asha is far from finito as a singer. Yes, the composition should be suitable for her status and vocal scale—which this one is.
4 Vidya Balan
The actress reinvents with practically every film, but this is her first performance in five years (since Kahaani in 2012) that packs a punch, and sees her so much into the character that you forget you are watching the Parineeta actress. What’s more, even if the film breaks even, this will be her first success since that epic.
5 Kausar Munir
She has written lyrics now for almost a decade, but this is the first truly challenging assignment into which Kausar Munir gets to sink her creative teeth. Shedding any influences of her icon Gulzar, she pens first-class verse overall, and lines like ‘Haldi Mali Jab Ghaav Pe Tere, Har Zakhma Mera Haraa Ho Gaya, Yeh Kya Ho Gaya’ (When I applied healing turmeric on your wounds, my injuries reopened—how did this happen?) are to die for in today’s world of mundane word-fitting to forgettable tunes.
What’s more, Kausar also wrote the dialogues, inculcating so many punch-lines of substance within them.
6 Ila Arun
As the old woman who loves to tell inspiring stories from history and mythology to the girls in the brothel, Ila Arun, but for her distinct voice, was so unrecognizable that for a few minutes, we thought that she had dubbed for an(other) artiste playing an old woman!
7 Chunky Pandey
Never really considered an actor, this ‘80s and early ‘90s stars goes beyond his buffoon image of Housefull to portray a loathsome baddie with terrible teeth who is completely amoral and vicious. His few negative roles in the past (like in Qayamat in 2003), were nowhere close to this feat.
8 Vivek Mushran
It is hard to believe that the early ‘90s Subhash Ghai protégé who sang ‘Ilu Ilu’ to Manisha Koirala could look so sober, and finally come across as so much of a cad. Vivek was a revelation in this film.
Another Subhash Ghai discovery (Kaanchi—The Unbreakable) put on track by the Bhatts, Mishti underplayed the victim so well that her early breakdown scene and the sequence when she is taken to Naseeruddin Shah were indeed memorable.
10 Pallavi Sharda
The vapid heroine of Besharam took on another avatar completely. She was intense—her eyes spoke even more than her. Pallavi took to the role of the spirited, rebellious and finally repentant girl as to the manor born.
11 Gauahar Khan
The item song girl has clearly come a long way. Khan churns your senses as the hardened prostitute with clear principles and fiery eyes. Her dialogues delivery is excellent and her expression during her struggle with Pallavi perfect—she is angry yet full of pity for the misled youngster.