Umrao Jaan (1981)

  |  Drama, Musical


Umrao Jaan (1981) Poster

In Faizabad, British India, Dilawar is sentenced to several years in prison after Amiran's Daroga dad testifies against him. After his discharge around 1840, he extracts his vengeance by ... See full summary »

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7.9/10
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26 June 2007 | Chrysanthepop
Muzaffar Ali introduces her on screen but Rekha immortalizes her
Though 'Umrao Jaan' has been re-brought to screen just last year. Muzaffar Ali's adaptation of Mirza Hadi Ruswa's novel remains the most memorable. Ali does not exaggerate with lavish set designs and his adaptation is of a rather lower budget. He gracefully shows us Umrao mastering the art of poetry and dance. The songs are beautiful and poetry is itself a character in Umrao's life, like a traveling companion. In some of the songs we are shown flashes of old elegant paintings, old fashioned settings and what Lucknow may have looked like. takes us back in time to what the late 1800s may have resembled.

The performances are subtle except of Khanum Jaan's character. Muzaffar really Farooq Sheikh is brilliant as the young naïve prince and Nasseeruddin Shah is superb as Gohar Mirza. Shaukat Kaifi and Dina Pathak are adequate. Prema Narayan is decent.

However, Umrao Jaan clearly belongs to Rekha. With subtlety and grace she underplays her part. There is no melodrama or unnecessary loudness and this allows us to really feel for Umrao. We see that Ramdei, who was kidnapped like her but sold to slavery, has now become a happy wife of a Nawab. We see her friend and fellow dancer Bismillah finding happiness in her life. Finally we see Umrao moving along the path of life: trying to forget the past, trying to find happiness and love or trying to escape from it all. She manages to independently make a living reciting poetry, ghazals and dancing but though people yearn to hear her sing and watch her dance, they refuse to give her the respect of a 'decent' woman. As we see Umrao travelling through life trying to find her own place, in the end she returns to that very place (now abandoned) picking up from where she left as she has no place else to go. She looks in the mirror that reflects her destiny

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