Every film has its own destiny, says director Srijit Mukherji as he waits for the release of his first Hindi film Begum Jaan, a remake of his hard-hitting 2016 Bengali movie Rajkahini, which releases alongside the mammoth Hollywood franchise Fast & Furious 8.
Mukherji is unperturbed.
“My film will be seen and judged for its own merits,” he said.
His film about a gallery of prostitutes occupying a no-man’s land during the time of India’s Partition, has a cast of nearly 40-45 characters, all played by exceptional actors from stage and cinema.
Interestingly, Mukherji, who is known for his avant garde cinema in Bengali, has not repeated even one of the actors in Begum Jaan from the original film. Although Rituparna Sengupta, who played the main lead of the Madame in the brothel in Bengali, was keen to do the remake, the filmmaker opted for Vidya Balan.
“I was very sure I didn’t want my remake to look anything like the original. So, I deliberately avoided using even one of the actors from the original,” Mukherji said.
He has boldly cast two almost-forgotten actors with angelic images in red-hot villainous roles.
“When you see Chunky Pandey and Vivek Mushran in my film, you won’t be able to recognise them. They are cast for the first time in negative roles. And they are a revelation.”
Chunky has been known for his frivolous flippant farcical roles throughout his career. He plays a vicious assassin in “Begum Jaan“.
“Chunky plays an absolutely ruthless man who stops at nothing to fulfil his greed. There was a hunger in Chunky to prove himself. I used that hunger. Audiences won’t recognise Chunky. As for Vivek Mushran, you will find it hard to accept that the backstabber he plays ‘Begum Jaan‘ is the sweet debutant from Subhash Ghai’s ‘Saudagar‘.”
Vivek plays a seemingly benevolent school teacher helping the prostitutes make peace with their lives. Eventually, his character is exposed to be a monster.