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Umrao Jaan (1981)

7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 634 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 3 critic

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

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(novel) (as Mirza Hadi Ruswa) , (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: Umrao Jaan (1981)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Farooq Shaikh ...
Nawab Sultan (as Farouque Shaikh)
...
...
Shaukat Azmi ...
Khanum Jaan (as Shaukat Kaifi)
Ishtiaque Khan Ghilzai ...
(as Khan Ghilzai)
Prema Narayan ...
Akbar Rashid
Gajanan Jagirdar ...
Dina Pathak ...
Rita Rani Kaul ...
Ramdei
Shaheen Sultan
Umme Farwa ...
Seema Sathyu
Edit

Storyline

In Faizabad, British India, Daroga Dilawar is sentenced to several years in prison after Amiran's dad testifies against him. After his discharge around 1840, he extracts his vengeance by abducting Amiran and selling to a brothel madam. It is here Amiran will be re-named Umrao Jaan. Years later, Umrao has grown up and is an accomplished poetess as well as dancer extraordinary. She has many patrons, chief amongst them are Nawab Sultan and his father. The young Nawab is smitten by Umrao's beauty and her poems, but is finally forced to marry a girl of his mother's choice, leaving behind a heart-broken and devastated Umrao, who seeks solace in the arms of Faiz Ali and finally elopes with him, only to find out that he is a wanted bandit, and is shot down and killed by guards. Umrao re-locates to Lucknow where she establishes herself as a Poet and dancer, but is hunted down by brothel-keepers, Gohar Mirza and Husseini and brought back, where she is told that she must marry Gohar. Watch what ... Written by rAjOo (gunwanti@hotmail.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Musical

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Details

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Release Date:

21 June 2005 (Hungary)  »

Also Known As:

Umrao Jaan, a kurtizán  »

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Connections

Referenced in American Desi (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Yeh kya jagah hai doston
Lyrics by Shahryar
Music by Khayyam
Sung by Asha Bhosle
See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best Indian movies
26 November 2006 | by (Hong Kong) – See all my reviews

I saw it again, after 25 years! I think it is one of the best movies (Indian or otherwise), at par with any famed-Satyajit Ray. It should NOT be even compared with the new Umrao Jaan. The problem is that it is so good that Muzaffar Ali (the producer from Lucknow where most of the movie unfolds) perhaps cannot make a better movie all his life.

The film is very restrained, and therefore, a believable story of a Lucknow tawa-if (courtesan, geisha). There are no brave heroes (all flee 1857 Sepoy Mutiny against the English), the robber Faiz Ali dies in an unheroic escape. Owner of house of tawaifs, Madam Khanum, is selfish and exploitative. Nawab Sultan, one of the first clients of Umrao, sees Umarao what she is - a tawaif and abandons her with no compunctions to marry into the wealthy family of her cousin; others hurl insults at Umrao. There is a thin line (if any) between a tawaif and a prostitute/hooker - Umrao sleeps with Nawab Sultan as a matter of routine, and then with the robber Faiz Ali.

Urdu poetry (ghazal) is shown to be pervasive in the lives of tawaifs and all around her. The dialogs are in lyrical, delicate and local Urdu, difficult to be appreciated in translation. Acting is superb by all. Songs and Indian Kathak dances (minus one by Nawab Sultan) are mostly in context.

Good movies like good books can enrich and teach. Most Indian movies are trash, fantastic escape from reality but not old Umrao Jaan. You could see Lucknow of a bygone era. Sample these:

  • pigeon flight contests (or kabootar baazi, a flock breaking pigeons


mid flight from a rival flock) - Indian hop scotch (ikkal dukkal) - the earthen stove (or choolha) - the custom of eating with hands in the kitchen on the floor near choolha - the custom of offering for a saint's shrine (nazar at durgaah) - the custom of arranged marriage between Muslim cousins - the custom of purdah, - the custom of eating betel leaf (or paans) and hookah smoking - the tradition of sellers of bangles and shawls coming home - the incompetent and indolent nawabs who would sell part of the estate for a courtesan

See it if you have not yet; see it again if you have once. Technically, the photography is not as high quality as now - but then in 25 years movie cameras have improved a lot.


8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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