Saturday, November 25, 2006

no jaan in 'umrao jaan'






after 'jaan-e-man',which was the last movie i saw,i decided to see 'umrao jaan' before leaving india on my business tour.the earlier one made in the 80s by muzaffar Ali was an outstanding success.it was based on the urdu novel titled 'umrao jaan ada' written by mirza hadi ruswa. i am currently reading its english translation by david matthews.

to remake a box-office hit is always very risky.and jp dutta did exactly that.when one compares the new and hyped umrao with the old,i must say,it falls far short of expectations. rekha was outstanding in the earlier version.the images of dusky rekha keep coming to your mind. that of a beautiful courtesan and an accomplished but sad poet,and her mujras and ghazals still come forth in your mind's eye and ring in your ears.

aishwarya has acted brilliantly.aishwarya as umrao jaan is stunning.as a tawaaif she is dressed in the most expensive clothes which could be the envy of begum sahibas! she holds her own and inspite of the heavy burden of rekha behind her she essays her part charmingly.aishwarya steals the show. she has been dressed extremely well and the makeup is flawless.she exhibits a wide range of emotions brilliantly and her dances are scintillating.take aishwarya out and the movie will collapse.everything else about the movie excepting the story and aishwarya is just average.abhishek's acting as the nawab besotted with the courtesan,the background music,the choreography,et al does not impress.the only redeeming features are aishwarya,shabani azmi as the kothewali and the costume designs.period.

director jp dutta in trying to put old wine in a new bottle has sadly failed.the earlier 'umrao jaan'was a musical masterpiece.brilliant soundtrack and unforgettable khayyam's music.the lyrics by sharyar and several hit songs by asha bhonsle were beautiful.the current umrao jaan has average cinematography and very average music by anu malik.there are just too many mujras and the movie is very very slow.it has emerged without a soul.a great disappointment indeed.

the movie starts with umrao jaan meeting her biographer and telling her sad and poignant story.her tragic and ironic life set in 19th century lucknow.we get a feel of the culture and ethos of that bygone period through many flashbacks.the lucknawi culture of sher-o-shayiri,ghazals,mujras.sponsored by rich nawabs.of happy childhood memories as amiran when she is the apple of her dear abba's eye,the games she played with her dear younger brother,the loss of a silver ring given by abba for which she was spanked by her ammi,her tragic kidnapping by her neighbour and father's enemy dilwar khan,her sale to a kothewali,her rechristening to umrao jaan,her life in the kotha where she was brought up with love and affection by her foster parents,the learning of dance,music and literature, her love affair with a young nawab,betrayal by him as he decides to marry a girl of his father's choice,her misplaced trust in a bandit king,her return to her birthplace faizabad for a performance and her eventual meeting with her mother and brother in their 'bangla',and who sadly reject her because she has brought dishonour to her family.she returns to the life that fate has destined for her.that of a courtesan.

if lucknow was the heart of avadh,umrao was the heartbeat.due to her proficiency in writing and composing poems umrao had ada as her signatory name.ada means coquetry.she was loved and respected.but then her's is a story of great angst and pathos. the avadhi vidaai song "agle janam mohe bitiya na kijo"("don't let me comeback as a daughter in my next birth") is heart-wrenching.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review! Like most other people, I have been very curious about Umrao Jaan but decided to wait to see it after I had read the book. I was going to order the translation by Khushwant Singh on Amazon, is there any reason you opted for the one by David Matthews?

I haven't seen the former "Umrao Jaan" so having nothing to compare it with I guess I might actually end up enjoying this version! Are you finding that it is true to the book so far?

p.s. I just bought a copy of "Dor" and "Woh Lamhe" and intend watching both, or atleast one, this weekend. Will let you know what I thought of the movies.

gs said...

david matthews is a urdu and nepali scholar.he teaches in london university.he has translated many urdu religious books to english.there was no particular reason for choosing dm's book.as i wanted to do a quick scanning of the book before i saw the movie i selected it.yes,having done a rapid reading of the book,and now after seeing the movie,i am enjoying every bit of the book.the movie is so far quite true to the book.i don't know if you can get a copy of the old umrao jaan.watching both will give you a comparitive perspective of the two films.and many thanks for your comments.

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