This [tag]movie[/tag] [tag]Umrao Jaan[/tag] (उमराव जान / امراؤ جان ) is based on the novel ‘Umrao Jaan Ada’ by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa, and is a remake of the 1981 blockbuster [tag]Hindi movie[/tag] starring [tag]Rekha[/tag]. This is a story of Ameeran, a girl from Faisabad who is sold to a madam in Lucknow and who grows up to be Umrao Jaan, a beautiful courtesan skilled in music, dance and literature. But behind this exterior beauty is a sorry tale of love, betrayal and sorrow.
अब जो किये हो दाता ऐसा ना की जो,
अगले जनम मोहे बिटिया ना की जो ।
(What you have done this time, oh Lord, please don’t repeat
Don’t make me a girl in my next birth.)
Young Amiran from Faizabad witnesses a बिदाई (departure/sendoff) of the bride to her husband’s house after her marriage. Watching the grief stricken family of the bride she tells her mother that she will never go away after marriage.
Indeed, Ameeran, barely in her teens is sold off by a criminal to the bazaar of Lucknow where she is inducted into a कोठा (House of entertainers) managed by Khannum Jaan ([tag]Shabana Azmi[/tag]). Khannum gives Ameeran a new name – ‘Umrao’. Umrao is trained in traditional dance and given education in literature and शायरी ([tag]Urdu[/tag] poetry). She grows up to become Umrao Jaan ([tag]Aishwarya Rai[/tag]), a beautiful woman perfectly skilled in dance and poetry. She is not a conventional prostitute, but is groomed specially to entertain rich and high class men (Nawabs). In very her first मुजरा (dance presentation), she enthralls the entire Lucknow city by her beauty and thus becomes the most sought after tawayaaf.
Nawab Sultan ([tag]Abhishek Bacchan[/tag]) who has a penchant for ghazals, is instantly drawn towards Umrao jaan, while Umrao falls in love with him at the first sight. They connect instantly and take vows never to separate from each other. Alas Nawab Sultan’s father is unhappy with his relationship and disowns him. Thus, unable to ‘pay’ for the expensive services of Umrao, Khannum asks him to leave. This is where the tragic story begins. There’s a lot more I’m not writing here.
And now some opinions.
Aishwarya Rai is very gorgeous indeed. She can perform the classical dances gracefully, deliver dialogs seamlessly and express the feelings beautifully. Her eyes are alive and her gestures are rich and perfect. Compared to this, Abhishek Bacchan is a mess. Never does he look anything close to his role of an elegant prince. Sunil Shetty is apt for his short appearance as a dacoit. Shabana Azmi is always a reliable actress. She is a class apart from the mainstream Bolywood filmstars, and that is evident.
The movie is directed quite well overall. The urgency of situation during the 1875 uprising, the pain felt by Umrao jaan when Nawab Sultan calls her unfaithful, and such emotional moments are remarkably portrayed. However, there are excessive number of songs and unwanted scenes in the movie that gives the viewer a feeling that the movie will never end. Director [tag]J. P. Dutta[/tag] could have edited the movie to a crisp two or two-and-half hours instead of making it three
days hours long. Anu Malik, the music director has failed to create any good music, which could have made watching the movie a slightly less boring experience. All the songs sound mundane and there are too many of them scattered in the movie.
The movie is full of shayri’s and elegant dialogs. The use of Urdu is impressive, but sometimes excessive. They could have provided subtitles in Hindi or English to make understanding easier! But at the same time, one line of poetry conveys message worth reels of dialogs and this is a striking achievement. Also, I liked the flash-back concept of story telling. It distinctly highlights the striking contrast of Umrao jaan at old age and during her glory days.
I haven’t seen the earlier make of the movie by Muzaffar Ali. But I strongly feel that if a movie is going to be remade, it should be edited to suit present-day. If the new movie is simply a copy paste of the old one, nobody is going to like it. Had there been some originality with the adaptation of the same story to contemporary times, it would have been much more enjoyable and appealing to the fans.
This folk song however kept lingering in my head for a couple of days…
अब जो किये हो दाता ऐसा ना किजो,
अगले जनम मोहे बिटिया ना किजो ।
कैसा नसीबा जगमें हर बिटिया पाये,
अपना जिन्हे समझत है पर वो पराये,
बाबूल का अंगना छूटे, मैया का अचरा,
भोली चिडिया पाये बस एक पिंजडा,
फिर भी ये सब समझावे तडपा ना की जो,
अगले जनम मोहे बिटिया ना की जो
जो अब किये हो दाता ऐसा ना की जो ।