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  • Writer's pictureAmit Shankar

Cliched Begums

Do you know what is wrong with Indian filmmakers and writers? To find the answer, you must watch Bombay Begums.

The problem starts with the name itself.

Why Begum?

I am not even getting into the debate about why Mumbai has been renamed, Bombay. Maharashtra or Mumbai for that matter never had any legacy or history of Begums. But then being a Liberal, Jamia-educated, left-wing filmmaker, you had to propagate the pseudo-culture you were spoon-fed by the Romila Thapar and Ram Chandra Guha of this world. If the setting was UP, Kashmir, for that matter even MP, the title would have sufficed, but Begum in a city like Mumbai that too in the corporate sector?

How could the writer not have known that the Mumbai corporate circle was and is ruled by Parsis and Gujaratis? From Wadias to Pallonji, Tatas to Ambanis, the list goes on. Yet to prove their allegiance to the pseudo-intellectual clique and Islam and to sound literate, the title needed Begum.

My second bone of contention; the context. Did the writer or the filmmaker bother speaking to few top bankers?

Surely not. No wonder, the story is set in some surreal world, a figment of the writer’s imagination which he finally dressed up as Bank. If the Advertising setting would not have been over abused, instead of Banking, he would have surely gone for it.

I do know a lot of top bankers and trust me they are nothing like the CEO or the MD of the banks portrayed in the series.

And by the way, amidst an illustrious line-up of IIM and Harvard management honchos how did the CEO, a Bank Teller from Kanpur rose to be the CEO? Just by sleeping with her mentor? You seriously want us to believe this?

And by the way, what do Bankers do? Molest, fuck, drink, plot coups? Is this is how a bank works?

My third issue with this macabre series is the character sketch. Too sketchy to say the least. The protagonist is a strong woman, a fighter who is a caring mother, loving wife, but sleeps with the Director of the Bank. Why? Cause she thinks she is in love? Does she need a justification for sleeping with some other man? On the contrary, the Deputy MD is sleeping with some other man, claiming she did it for herself, yet waxing eloquence about being in love with her husband. Confusing? Sorry, I can't help it.

I am not getting into the morality of it, just the confusion is too much to handle. Who are these women? Ambitious who would do anything to rise, or a babe in the wood, a loving wife, a caring mother, or a compulsive cheater? Please, give us a break.

From the prostitute who wants a factory to get respect from society to the teenage girl who is just obsessed with her periods, the world, its dreams, and the aspirations of these characters are so made up, fake, and botched up.

My last issue and the biggest one is Cliches. The plot, setting, characters, the build-up, and the climax are all too cliche.

A small-town girl making to the top post via the bed of compromise, a sexual predator colleague who on the face of it is a happily married family man, a young girl from a small-town girl being forced by her parents to get married while she is trying to find her place in the big bad city, exploring her sexual side, a coy supporting husband, rebel teenage kids. The writer and the filmmaker had their belief rooted in cliches. If there is one title that aptly describes this series, it is Cliched Begum.

A word of advice to the writer and the filmmaker: interesting characters make interesting stories, broad character arcs along with mini character arcs define the pace and the grit, well-rounded real characters with real aspirations and a play between black and white keep the plot interesting and finally, clothes are accessories not characters.

Amit Shankar Best-selling author, of five titles, Poet, Brand consultant, Nationalist, Political analyst, Speaker, Founder — TGILF, House of Lions

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