I watched the remake of Umrao Jaan yesterday. This was the version with Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. To be honest, I quite liked the movie. It was quite well done. I also liked the shayari and the songs – probably the only reason that I still dont end up humming the tunes is because I still have the tunes of the earlier version looming inside my head.
The locations, the dresses the ambience – all have been maintained quite well in this movie. Except for this one shot where Suneil Shetty sits down next to Aishwarya and we see the rubber soles of his footwear – did they have modern shoes back then? I wonder.
Aishwarya of course cannot compare to the inmitible Rekha – somehow, with whatever roles she essays, she comes accross as somewhat wooden – never quite giving into the character totally, and always holding something back. I had thought that this problem of hers would somehow resolve itself with more and more movies that she does, but it has not. With Ash one always gets that feeling.
Also, the plot does differ here and there from the earlier version. For example:
1. When Amiran is kidnapped, the earlier version shows that she is with another girl, who does not get selected by the Madam of the Kotha. Later on Rekha’s character ends up meeting her at a function and they lament their ‘kismet’ because Rekha’s character lands up at a Kotha while the other girl is raised in a good family.
2. Rekha’s character ends up interacting with the dacoit character while she is on the run from the mutineers and after she has been ditched by Farook Sheik’s character. Whereas, in this new movie, Aishwarya’s character ends up meeting him even before.
3. This version has Aishwarya’s character going after Abhishek’s character till a long time. In the earlier version, Rekha’s character has given up on Farook Sheikh’s character a long time ago.
There is a beauty in this movie too. The costumes, I am told are very much in keeping with the costume styles of those days – especially with regards to courtesans.
I enjoyed the movie. Have a look, you will enjoy it too!
Now we come to another interesting question..Was Umrao Jaan for real or is she a fictional character. Searching for answers to this question on Google gave me links to these articles. Here, I am copying the articles and their links.
Was Umrao Jaan for real?
Syed Firdaus Ashraf
November 02, 2006 13:41 IST
Who was Umrao Jaan?
Many people may like to believe that Umraojaan existed for real, but to this date there is a controversy on whether such a courtesan existed in the 19th century, as depicted in Umra-O-Jaan-E-Ada, a novel written in 1904 by Mirza Mohammed Hadi Ruswa.
Says writer Javed Siddiqui, who wrote Muzaffar Ali’s 1981 Umrao Jaan, “There have always been two opinions. I believe she never existed in this world. If she existed where is her grave? No one knows till this date. The book of Ruswa became so famous and an Urdu literature classic that everyone thought that Umrao Jaan is a real character, but it is not true.”
Born in 1857, Ruswa was a teacher, poet and an author and wrote only five novels in his lifetime. This novel is the story of Ameeran, a girl from a lower middle class family. She is kidnapped as a child and ends up a nautch girl, rechristened as Umrao Jaan.
The only work of his that enjoyed acclaim after this was the novel Sharif Zada. Ruswa eventually moved out of Lucknow and settled down in Hyderabad before he passed away in 1931.
Amaresh Misra, author Lucknow: Fire of Grace believes Umrao Jaan really existed.
“Ruswa met Umrao in 1882 when she was reduced to penury,” says Misra. “She was living as a destitute and she told her life story to him.”
In his opinion, Umrao Jaan left Lucknow for Bhairach district in 1858 after Lucknow fell to Britishers, and moved back only much later in life, at an old age.
Amaresh is convinced Umrao was real because he feels there is historic evidence backing him.
“The character of dacoit Fazal Ali existed and he was killed in 1856. He was from Gonda and people of Gonda fought against Britishers in 1857 during the revolt because they killed their leader. This fact is recorded in history.”
In the book, Fazal Ali meets Umrao and falls in love with her after Nawab Sultan refuses to marry her.
Fazal Ali’s character (called Faiz Ali in the movies) was played by Raj Babbar in 1981, and will be played by Suniel Shetty in the new film.
“Secondly,” says Amaresh, “there’s the character of Azizunbai, the famous courtesan. When the Britishers deposed Azizunbai for plotting against them in 1857, she said she was a disciple of Umrao Jaan, and this fact too is recorded in history.”
The British executed Azizunbai, and till this day her grave exists in Kanpur.
Interestingly, the new Umrao Jaan will be Bollywood’s fourth attempt at telling Ruswa’s story. The first film came in 1958, called Mehndi, after which Zindagi Aur Toofan followed in 1975. Then came the 1981 classic by Muzaffar Ali.
The latest director J P Dutta says, “There is still a lot of speculation and awe about Umrao Jaan in Lucknow; whether she was really there, if she is a real character or Ruswa’s imagination. Some people also say that she was Ruswa’s mother.”
Concludes Iftakhar Imam Siddiqui, noted Urdu poet, “I believe Umrao Jaan was not a real character and Ruswa wrote that character reflecting its time. His character Umrao Jaan became more famous than him.”
Mystery of the real Umrao Jaan
Wednesday November 1, 09:56 AM
Lucknow: As J P Dutta’s Umrao Jaan is set to hit the silver screen this Friday, Lucknow is trying to trace the last remains of the 19th century courtesan. Though not many people know that Umrao Jaan lies buried in what looks like an ordinary passage in the city, flowers have been placed as a tribute to Umrao Jaan under a tree in that passage. People claim she lies buried under the concrete, long lost and forgotten. Not everyone agree though. “People say she’s buried in the Imamwara or Karbala of Azim ullah Khan, which is in Talkatora. Some say she’s buried in Faizabad, while others say she’s buried in Banaras,” says a descendant of Wajid Ali Shah, Nawab Jafar Mir Abdullah. Meanwhile, the nawabs of Lucknow are angry with JP Dutta over what they call wrong portrayal of the Awadhi culture in the film. They are also upset because the site called Karbala, or the holy place of Azim ullah Khan, who fought in India’s first war for independence in 1857, hardly finds any mention in tourist guide-books. The place shot into limelight only after the new version of Umrao Jaan was shot there. Like Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan, J P Dutta’s version is also based on Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s book Umrao Jaan Ada. Those well-versed with the history of Awadh say the 19th century courtesan, first played by Rekha and now Aishwarya Rai, could well be a fictional figure. While there’s no documentary evidence of Ruswa’s work, the nawabs of Lucknow are not ready to accept a distorted portrayal of Umrao Jaan’s character on the silver screen or neglecting what they call her place of burial. “Showing Umrao Jaan in a swimming pool romancing the nawab sultan is absolutely degrading,” says Nawab Jafar Mir Abdullah. The nawabs claim the filmmakers have minted money, but never bothered to look after the place. If Muzaffar Ali had spent even one per cent of the money he made, Karbala could have been improved,” says Nawab Azam Ali Khan. So, J P Dutta’s Umrao Jaan, slated to be released on November 3, may have to face some flak and it will certainly miss the Awadhi ambiance.
Make what you will of this!!