Umrao Jaan (2006)
Name: Umrao Jaan
Director: J.P Dutta
Did I watch this recently? No
Umrao Jaan (2006) is based on the Urdu Novel ‘Umrao Jan Ada’ by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. The story tells of an 8 year old girl called Amiran, who is kidnapped from her home in Faizabad by Dilawar Khan who wanted revenge upon Amiran’s father for imprisoning him. He then does not kill her, but sells her to a brother in Lucknow run by Khannum Jaan (Shabana Azmi). She is fortunate enough to have surrogate parents who care for her. Amiran then is taught in the art of a Courtesan – dancing and seduction.
Amiran turns into an elegant beauty by the name of Umrao Jaan (Aishwarya Rai). Her beauty and poetry catchs the eye of Nawab Sultan (Abhishek Bachchan) which begins a passionate love affair. But when his father finds out he disowns Nawab Sultan, pennyless Nawab goes to his uncle in Grahi to regain his fortune and Umrao prays everyday for his return. In the mean time Faiz Ali (Sunil Shetty), a bandit, falls for Umrao and wants her at all costs. The rest of the story tracks Umrao Jaan’s life, loves and losses.
Oh J.P Dutta! If i was the Prime Minister of India i would ban you from directing movies. Or at least make you realise when you have done something wrong – instead of blaming everyone else. We told you for L.O.C Kargill (2003) that it was far too long and boring and to embrace the editing machine. But no it was the audiences fault, not yours! So for Umrao Jaan i had hoped you had learnt your lessons, but no your same mistakes have been repeated.
Poor JP can’t balance the telling of the story with the execution of the story which eventually effects his editing. His passion is his main fault, i’m sure he thinks each scene was so important and didn’t felt it should be cut as it would change the ‘authenticity’ of the story.
The main USP of Umrao Jaan when being compared to its 1981 original counterpart, is Umrao Jaan 2006 was the adaption of the book, not a remake of the 80s version – so really that was his selling point of the difference. Still i think he needs to learn a directors job is to entertain among other things the viewer, not to just inform. Especially when the film is 3 hours and not that stimulating!
Abhishek as Nawab Sultan Khan has what is known as ‘stare acting’. He pretty much throughout the whole film just stares at Umrao Jaan (Aishwarya) dancing. Some scenes i thought he was good, like the drunk scene and the fight scene, but the others i felt he needed to show more emotion or affection to Umrao. No wonder why people said he and Aishwarya showed no chemistry, there was no emotion in his character. It wasn’t until Guru that they proved they could show chemistry.
Aishwarya carried this film all the way. I’ve sat through a lot of bad performances by her, but this one i think she has been the saving grace of this film. I could not think of anyone else who could be Umrao Jaan. She was far more expressive in her eyes and mannerisms (rather then just relying on dialogue) to convey what her character is feeling/thinking. Towards the end of the movie she is especially heartbreaking. In the emotional scenes she did not resort to hysterics which is what i think she would normally did her in emotional/dramatic scenes. So a good job by her all round. Although they over utilised the glycerine! Her eyes were bloodshot from it for most of the film!
So the strong points of Umrao Jaan had to be Aishwarya and the costumes. My the costumes were pretty – my person favourites were the white and purple dresses. All costumes were bright and striking so whenever you were bored with the movie you could at least stare at the beautiful sets and costumes.
Dancing however was more disappointing! The strengths of Umrao Jaan has to be Umrao, costumes, songs and dancing and unfortunately the songs and dancing are a let down. Alka pretty much sings all the songs and i’m not a big fan of her. At times with the sound up to high i felt as if my ears were bleeding with pain at her high pitch singing. Salaam, Pehle Pehel and Bekha Diya Humain are the more melodic songs to listen to. But its hard to remember which song is which because there are not many distinctive ones and the dancing could get boring at times. Aishwarya is a fantastic dancer so they really could have done a much more engaging choreography then they did. One thing to note is that Aishwarya isn’t just dancing but is also ‘acting dancing’. You can see her anger in Jhute Ilzaam or her sadness in Pooch Rahe Hain. But the best song and dance has to be ‘Salaam’.
Overall Score: 2.5/5 Hairy Anil Kapoors – Overall the movie suffers from lengthy non-engaging scenes due to the director’s inability to adequetely edit his movie. Screenplay also suffers from weak character depiction, editing, portrayal of portions of the story and at times weak songs/dancing. Despite this i still enjoyed the experience but it doesn’t have rewatch value due to its lengthy and for many people i’m sure boring portrayal. Strengths of this movie are Aishwarya, Shabana and quite a few scenes that are good enough to leave you feeling not so bad about the film.