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Title Umrao Jaan (Aishwarya Rai)
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J.P. Dutta is one of the finest storytellers around, UMRAO JAAN evokes tremendous anxiety & deserves meritorious points for drawing sensitive performances. UMRAO JAAN is visually rich with the bygone era captured beautifully on celluloid and the stamp of a master storyteller is visible in all scenes. UMRAO JAAN is akin to a poem on celluloid, enriching, satisfying and has a fulfilling experience.
A courtesan and a poetess in her own right, Umrao Jaan [Aishwarya Rai] was a name to reckon with in Avadh. If Lucknow was the heart of Avadh, Umrao was the heart beat.
When she first came to Lucknow, she was Amiran, the eight-year-old daughter of a lower middle class family. Her father [Parikshit Sahni] was a jamadar at the ‘Bahu Begum ka Makhbara’ in Faizabad. A pious and simple man, he gave evidence in a case against Dilawar Khan [Vishwajeet Pradhan]. Dilawar was sentenced to jail for ten years. After finishing his sentence, Dilawar came out, only to kidnap little Amiran, cart her to Lucknow and sell her to a kotha owned by the astute Khanum Sahib [Shabana Azmi]. This was the vengeance and a few rupees as bonus. “Let her suffer a death worse than a death,” he said.
A kotha in that age, especially that of Khanum, was not only a cultural hub known for excellence in performing arts but also a temple of learning -- learning the art of living. As an inmate of the kotha, little Amiran benefited the most. Khanum gave her the name ‘Umrao’, Bua Hussaini [Himani Shivpuri] brought her up in style, Maulvi Sahib [Kulbhushan Kharbanda] imparted education, Khan Sahib initiated her into the world of music while the great Kathak Acharya made her feet move to rhythm.
In the company of Bismillah [Divya Dutta], Khurshid [Ayesha Julka] and Gauhar Mirza [Puru Raaj Kumar], Umrao developed varied skills including poetry. The pen name ‘Ada’ was ample proof of the proficiency in writing and presenting poetry that she went on to acquire.
Graduating in years, Umrao became a rage in Lucknow. A beauty that was stunning, a manner that was enticing and words that were soul stirring, made the name of Umrao Jaan mean sheer joy of watching and listening.
Stepping into youth, she had to seek the love of her life. His name was Nawab Sultan [Abhishek Bachchan]. With the whole of Avadh at her feet, Umrao craved for Sultan’s company. Somewhere deep inside her, she had a dream of a husband, a family and a home. She chased her dream from one end of the rainbow to the other.
But there were hiccups in the form of a dacoit Faiz [Suniel Shetty], who was smitten by Umrao. Subsequently, the misunderstanding with Nawab Sultan takes place. Later, the war of independence makes her homeless. And much later, her mother [Maya Alagh] and brother disown her. Amiran is forced to become Umrao Jaan again.
The turning point comes in the form of the Sultan’s father, who disowns him. An interesting twist in the tale. The dacoit walks in, he wants Umrao at any cost. He even convinces her to come along and spend a month with him. She agrees. Interesting. Sultan gets to know the half-truth. He’s upset. He shuns her. She returns back to Khanum.
The war of independence breaks out. Umrao reaches Faizabad. Her home-town. She comes face to face with her mother and brother. She weeps, they’re not convinced. She gives her last performance in Faizabad.
O.P. Dutta’s dialogues are exemplary. Aishwarya Rai looks ethereal, heavenly and has performed convincingly. She emotes through her expressive eyes. Abhishek Bachchan leaves an indelible mark by his performance. Shabana Azmi is superb, especially in the sequence when she insults Abhishek. Suniel Shetty, he’s alright. Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Himani Shivpuri lend good support. Divya Dutta and Ayesha Julka leave a mark in brief roles. Parikshit Sahni, Maya Alagh, Vishwajeet Pradhan and Javed Khan are passable.
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