November 16, 2006

Kaunsi’Umrao’ Kiski ‘Jaan’ Kaisi ‘Ada’-Umrao Jaan Review

Filed under: movie reviews,opinions — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 1:33 pm
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Kaveeta Kaul

One of the most eagerly awaited films, in recent times, (not if one was to peruse the opening collections..a shameful 30%) where the lead ‘jodi’ had set the media ablaze with their impending ‘marriage’ rumors, a sure shot, tried and tested modus operandi to woo in crowds.

Apart from the hype of its budget, the ‘promos’, the advertised painstakingly carried out execution of the finer nuances of the original story written by ‘Rusva’, an expected buzz surrounded the release. That J.P. Dutta was the creator of this Umrao Jaan, as he had vociferously proclaimed time and again in his press interviews, to be differentiated from the earlier Muzaffar Ali saga, was hardly a cause for major excitement. His previous couple of films had not just failed miserably to strike gold at the box office, but had been panned by viewers and critics alike.

The wide disparity of opinions on this film had truly managed to put me on tenterhooks. I had to see for myself how a film could be so loved, and simultaneously hated by some, or rather the majority. Being cognizant of the ways of the masses where sometimes rare creativity fails to capture their imagination, I was willing to disregard the pathetic box office collections and view it with an open mind, stripped of pre conceived notions.

The first five minutes, provided ample clue to the fact that the Director, was in no mood to make this film with an effort to excel in his craft. It was at best a shoddy, compromised , version of a brilliant story. It angered, appalled and saddened me to witness how a film maker who at one time had given us a film like ‘Ghulami’, had now resorted to perhaps creating a hoop-la about his film, content in the fact that he will recover his money , no matter what, and had therefore planned to complete the task with as little pain, and maximum gain.

There was not a SINGLE shot or scene in the film which spoke of a technician at work. Except for when it was absolutely essential, the film had been shot in ‘immovable block-like close ups’..totally unexpected from a magnum opus of this kind.

It was not just the technical aspect which lacked noteworthy mention, but the story telling, despite being an inherently moving tale, it failed to rouse sympathy for the character of Umrao Jaan ada…mainly since it is debatable if the maker felt any, himself.

A barrage of songs, flawed screenplay, where the shift from past to present comes in sometimes at the emotional peak of a scene, speaks of an amateur director at work and not someone who has a string of big budget, star spangled films to his credit.

Umrao jaan, for me is the story of a woman who despite being a ‘tawaif’ was loved deeply by three men..but that was her misfortune. They loved her to such an obsession that they destroyed her. Not once in the film is this sense of a woman having got it all , to lose it forever, three times over, been brought out in its potency. It makes one wonder therefore whether, the maker had in fact noticed this slant to the story..or was he too busy skimming the surface of a ‘prostitutes life’ or then ensuring that the beauty of Aishwarya Rai, is captured for the camera, even if, devoid of pain.

That the film was made at a leisurely pace, with complete facilities available, and the luxury of having the two foremost stars co-operating whole heartedly is more than obvious. This is what enrages as well. With nothing lacking, what was brought forth? A faulty script, watered down emotional quotient, unexploited locations, un focussed attention to detail in the tapestry of characters and their motivations, a grim reminder of what it could have been and what it is not.

In no uncertain terms, this is a failure of the director.. no pernetrating insight into the plight of his characters, beyond the obvious, a lack of enthusism to employ techniques that could translate into lavishness of scale, a paucity of in depth analysis at the editing stage to snip off scenes which went on endlessly without taking the story in point when Nawab sultan, after being disinherited, comes to Umrao for refuge, and ended up calling himself her ‘Ghulam’..that went on for 12 minutes..Blasphemy in cinematic ethics.

Aishwarya Rai, followed instructions..that is all one got to make of her more no less. She had been shooting for this intermittently alongside ‘Dhoom2’ is more than apparent seeing the drastic weight loss which is most unbecoming in the clothes of 19th century Lucknowi tradition and that too in the character of a ‘tawaif’ lusted for by men of the city..she was painfully thin.

Abhishek Bachchan, I believe is the man who will outlive most stars of today.. but for that he will have to spruce up his physique, body language and posture.. he was lanky and ‘loose’ in his carriage..definitely not the ‘Pathan’ he portrayed.. what was the director doing whilst looking at the monitor” In a daze or busy congratulating himsef at the scoop!

Shabana Azmi has once again proved that she needs no director.. though her performance and character might have touched dizzy heights in the hands of more competence. She lived the role of ‘Khannum Saheb’ with an honesty and sincerity , her forte and trademark as an actor..her histrionics on fabulous display.

Puru Raaj Kumar was wasted..wasted..wasted and so was his character. The pathos of a man deliriously in love, reduced to a ‘pimp’ and then resorting to rape the woman he worships finally,was as if dismissed in a ‘time nahin hai’ kind of attitude as was most of the film. The complexity of human emotions, character and behaviour was as if of no concern to the director of a film which hinged on pain, pivotal to the evolution of the story.

Music was ineffective, except for the theme song and ‘Salaam’. Cinematography was unimpressive, as were the other technical departments, editing, art and sound.

What a terrible carnage of filmdom money and star dates..see if you must.



  1. I have never liked Jp muh..he seems very arrogant. except for ‘Border’ that too mainly becoz of akshay khanna and sunny deol in that sardar character. I have not even cared much for his i did not bother wasting 150 chips for this one..and going by your review have not missed much. Ash and abhishek do not sem to have any chemistry at all.

    Comment by neha — November 16, 2006 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  2. lost in translation πŸ™‚

    though this ben affleck movie was superb, methinks that u have also sumwhere locked ur self in the silver screenZ of the maximum city!!

    UJ!! well, din watch it but had smelt this malady, dunno.. the times not ripe for a period flick, rather for all those bygone ways of life.. the days are clocking faster, who has time for the ‘vaganza on screen- identity crisis! maybe we are not looking back in the pages of history to seep in the ethos of life? i dunno.. but ‘fire n forget’ movies hit the audi strong irrespective of the chemistry n stories arnd the page3… let us unwind to simplicity n not sum crore worth of show that aint much imaginative (nor a survival necessity!)

    watched ‘the departed’ last nite… burnt a hole in the pocket with 200 bucks tic even on a tuesday evening show!! all slam bam movie.. fast n ya, i refuse to cry over spolit romance, in the theatres!! whoever said lifez rosy outside… i have my cuppa full πŸ™‚ am just about happy that way…

    hoping the ‘double O 7’ would give sum thrills n frills… n then the dhoom2 wud arrive.. UJ won even have an hono’able farewell!!

    Comment by saptarshi — November 16, 2006 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Neha,

    That reminds me.. i should have mentioned about the non-existent chemistry between the two ..and this when romance in real life is at its zenith or so they claim..well..sigh..good old Love has no takers in these days of ‘your place or mine’ .

    Hi sapt,

    Locked myself in the silver screenz?? Great guessing there..Im proud of you.

    And some points on your comment..’period film’ may have been a contributory factor, but why do I get the feeling that had Sanjay leela bhansali aspired to make the very same we would have all thronged the movie halls..Jp as a director has lost contact and credibility with the masses.You got to hand it to them, they smell a good film this case they did not bother to even find out!Sad I said..its a lot of money and Bollywood suffers as a whole.

    And oh Yeah..Departed.. watched it twice coming up soon.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — November 16, 2006 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  4. u really are setting the ‘halls on fire’!! with all the revenue u giving them- two two times πŸ™‚ u deserve a guest appearance.. hehe, kidding lady!

    dunno about SLB, ya u may be rite, the fellow (feels like hez my bum chum!!) knowz where the pulse throbz n really goes in for the kill… dutta is gud but then commercially indian cinema has moved on.. guess he missed the ride!

    ps: read my poem, put up today n plz tell me u do really understand wat i tried to say.. hell! everyonez telling me am becoming the ‘learned one’!! πŸ™‚ they aint able to extract the crux of it.. 😦 makes me sad u know..

    Comment by saptarshi — November 16, 2006 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  5. hey sapt..sorry was tied up..shall visit your site today pucca:)

    And about SLB I dont know whether the secret of his success lies in having caught on to the pulse of the masses or sheer genius..I do sound mushy..but according to moi, except for Devdas which I found ‘over the top, I have loved all of his films so far..hope he does not fall prey to the snares of success and has a lot more to offer in future as well cinematically.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — November 18, 2006 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  6. The thing I liked most about the film were the urdu dialogues and the poetry. The performances were ok. My review is the secondlast post on my blog. – Umrao Jaan ya Umar bhar jahannum

    Comment by Hiren — November 18, 2006 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  7. true..the dialogues and poetry ..undeserved of the film..In fact my title is a dialogue from the film if you can recall..mouthed by Ash when talking to the writer Rusva,,in the beginning. After I saw the film, ths is what stayed with me ..this line ‘Kaunsi Umrao, kiski jaan , kaisi ada.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — November 18, 2006 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  8. nameste
    finally i got something to read honest about ‘…ada’
    i second you on many points
    happy blogging

    PS-i invite you to visit my blog and link me if you can

    Comment by jhaji — November 18, 2006 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  9. Hi Jhaji,

    Welcome and Thank you..

    Been through your sites.

    Loved your profile.

    Am linking you..on condition that you post a comment regularly..:)


    feel free to come and go in silence or leave your footprints behind via words.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — November 18, 2006 @ 10:57 pm | Reply

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