wiki:Umrao Jaan

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Umrao Jaan

1981 145’ col Urdu d/co-sc Muzaffar Ali pc Integrated Films st Meer Hadi Hassan Ruswa’s novel Umrao Jaan Ada (1899) co-sc/dial Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqui lyr Shahryar c Pravin Bhatt m Khayyam lp Rekha, Farouque Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar, Prema Narayan, Shaukat Kaifi, Dina Pathak, Leela Mishra, Gajanan Jagirdar

Based on the first major Urdu novel and possibly (there is controversy about this) the autobiography of a legendary mid-19th C. tawaif (a courtesan who was also an accomplished and respected musician and dancer) from Lucknow. Abducted as a child and sold in Lucknow, Umrao Jaan (Rekha) is trained in music and dance. She grows up to become immensely popular with the elite of the city, falls in love with an aristocrat nawab (Shaikh), then finds companionship with her childhood friend Gauhar Mirza (Shah), finally escaping her claustrophobic life with the bandit Faiz Ali (Babbar). Aijaz Ahmad (1992) notes about the novel that: ‘The scandal of Ruswa’s text is its proposition that since such a woman depends upon no one man, and because many depend on her, she is the only relatively free woman in our society. Ruswa was a very traditional man, and he was simply tired of certain kinds of moral posturing’. Ahmad sees the continuation of this motif of the free woman in the work of the PWA in the 30s. Muzaffar Ali recreated the image of the Urdu costume spectacular around the star Rekha while Bansi Chandragupta’s sets and Khayyam’s music endow the film with a sense of opulence enhancing the star’s performance (as well as overshadowing her limitations as a dancer). Includes many popular ghazals sung by Asha Bhosle e.g. Dil cheez kya hai and In ankhon ki masti.

Film