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Ameeran lives a poor-lifestyle with her mom, dad, and brother, Jamal, in Faizabad, British India. When her dad testifies against the local corrupt cop, Dilawar Khan, Khan swears to avenge this humiliation, and several years later, abducts Ameeran, holds her for ransom. When no money is forthcoming, he sells her. Ameeran ends up in a brothel run by Lucknow's Madame Khanum Jaan, where she is taught dance and poetry, and is subsequently re-named Umrao Jaan. Years later, Umrao has matured, is a well-known Courtesan with many patrons, chief amongst them are Nawab Sujat Ali Khan and his son, Sultan. Umrao and Sultan fall in love with each other, much to the chagrin of Sujat, who instructs Sultan either to give up Umrao or to lose his inheritance, and Sultan chooses Umrao. He gives up his father's palatial house and goes to live in the brothel, but re-locates to live with his uncle in Gadi after being taunted by Khanum Jaan. Umrao has a new admirer, Nawab Faiz Ali, who proposes to take her ...Written by
Despite being panned, I had hope that this film might be a fulfilling experience. The main problem with 'Umrao Jaan' is that it insists upon itself. It tries hard to be taken seriously, ergo, the script seems to be written by an eight grader who has just received a thesaurus and tries to impress his teacher by resorting to complex Lexis where simple words would do. Fact: J.P Dutta's version had all the makings of a grand tragedy: the ethereal main lead, her ashenly handsome love interest, haunting songs and magnificent sets and costumes.
Furthermore,the length of the film is exhaustive...I actually had to get up and move about for a bit in order to shake the cobwebs lining the inside of my cranium. The songs, though melodiously rendered, are far too many in number and get on one's nerves after a while. Also Dutta has shown 'Umrao Jaan' to be a love story gone sour. Having read Rusva's original I can safely say that the broad outlook of the novel was to provide the reader an insight into the life of a courtesan...the love story was just a part of the text and not the novel as a whole.
In conclusion, Umrao Jaan may be Aishwarya Rai's most powerful work till date and another feather in Shabana Azmi's cap but it is vaguely reminiscent of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' sans a true sense of tragedy.
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