Ash outdoes self as Umrao

Umrao Jaan (Drama)

Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, and Suniel Shetty

Direction: JP Dutta

Showing at Kumari Cinema


The celebrated courtesan, in another time, another era came in the guise of Rekha and had us all raptured. And we all agreed that none other than Rekha could have recreated the character with as much élan and elegance. Once more, in the light of JP Dutta’s Umrao, it’s Aishwarya who not only gives flesh and blood to the character but also steals the thunder, surpassing the calibee of the former actress. However, an epic as acclaimed, couldn’t have rested only on georgette and her spiralling gyrations!

The movie opens as Umrao (Aishwarya) only eight years old, gets kidnapped by a dacoit Dilawar Khan in a rage of vengeance, and sells her to a kotha owned by Khanum Jaan (Shabana Azmi). In the company of the artistes and maestros, little Umrao masters the art of mujra only to become the heartthrob of the nineteenth century Lucknow. As the kotha under the crackling of Khanum Jaan’s whip becomes the cultural core of Lucknow, it also becomes the pleasure hunt of the Nawabs where they pour their untold wealth.

It doesn’t take more than a mere sight for Nawab Sultan (Abhishek Bachchan) to get besotted with Umrao’s beauty and her magnificent mujra. But even as their romantic escapades begin, the rifts appear to show as the little nawab is separated from his father’s largesse. The tragedy of Umrao is almost endless while she dreams of her knight in shining armour night and day. Aishwarwa maintains her dignity, even as the story of unrequited love unfolds with a slew of heartbreaks, which indeed make up for some of the tear jerking moments in the flick.

Aishwarya also succeeds in bringing out the best nuances of her predicament through her exquisite mujras. However, what hits as a major snag is the lacklustre treatment of the tracks, which verges on overkill. The inordinate length of the first half and its sluggish pace almost stretches interminably with a slew of tired tracks and stilted lingo. And though Abhishek fits in comfortably in the role of a Nawab, he lacks the chutzpa and the charisma to make it seem more convincing. Sabana Azmi is rivetting once more in the role, and offers some memorable scenes in the movie. It’s a movie that exclusively rests on the performances of Aishwarya and Shabana.