Monday, July 04, 2005

umrao jaan 1981



The lucknow of the 19th century has a magic in it.A time period when various art forms reached its peak.A golden age of arts.This is one of those movies that beautifully portraits that time period.

The story is based on a classic Urdu novel 'Umarao Jaan Ada' by Mirza Ruswa.The english version of the book was called "The courtesan of lucknow" ,Translated by Khushwant Singh and M. A. Hussaini

Screenplay & dialog's are by Shama Zaidi, Javed Siddiqui, Muzaffar Ali.I was surprised to see shama Zaidi's name.This shyam benegal favorite has associated herself with so many great projects from garam hawa to bose.

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Umrao Jaan tells the story of a courtesan set in Lucknow of the early 19th century.Young girl Ameeran is kidnapped and sold in lucknow.She is bought by khanum a brothel incharge. She changes ameeran's name to umrao jaan.Umrao jaan grows up into a talented singer,dancer and a poet.She becomes a sought out tawayf(courtesan).

A nawab(Farooque sheikh) who hears her gazhal from the street, is attracted to her.After a brief affair he desserts her. she then escapes the brothel with a famous dacoit(raj babber),who later gets killed.Umrao moves to kanpur and leads an independent life and earns a name for herself as a good shayir.she is forced to move back to lucknow and she is again struck in the brothel.Sepoy mutiny breaks out and she again escapes lucknow and end up in her home town.Life comes a full circle for umrao.That is the short short story of the movie.
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The movie follows the life of this one girl.who is uprooted from her protected family and brought into a different world.A world of glitz and glamor, a world where her only purpose is to make others happy.She becomes a nightingale kept in a golden cage.A lonely soul in a crowd.she hopes to be rescued by her knight in shinning armor,but again and again she gets disappointed.Poetry becomes her channel to let out her pain, disappointment and love.And all the songs in the movie are beautifully penned to express it.The movie is her longing for a home,freedom and recognition.

The film is a gazhal on celluloid.It does not go to any extremes to invoke pain or passion.Everything is controlled and light.At the same time there is a lonliness and pain, throughout the movie.

Muzaffar Ali

The director muzaffar ali carefully avoided giving lot of dance scenes to rekha and made her do all the songs sitting.That was a smart move.

Urdu, mehfils, tawaifs, gazhals, shers, hookha's, dazzling dresses,beautiful houses and kathak performances takes you to a different time period.Lot of credit goes to the art director,make up specialist and dress designers for re creating that time period.

Urdu like telugu, has a innate beauty.There is something very attractive about the language.And when it penned with beautiful lyrics and rendered with an great voice, the joy of hearing it increases many fold.And all the songs in this movie do that.

Six Beautiful songs by khayyam makes this movie a landmark one.It is said that composer Jaidev was originally asked to do the music for the film, but the director Muzaffar Ali was not impressed with the tunes,he rejected all jaidev's tunes and Khayyam was given the job.The result was magic.

Asha Bhosle’s voice was recorded at a scale lower than her normal voice to give Rekha a husky, sensuous throat it seems.I wished khayyam did the same with lata mangeshkar in his other movie Bazaar.

Lyrics are by Shahryar, even though lot of people like "Dil cheez kya", my pick would be the "In Aankhon Ki Masti".Asha bonsle has set out with a mission to intoxicate you with this beautiful melody.The song has this sarangi piece which adds so much sensitivity to the song.

In Aankhon ki masti ke mastaaney hazaaron hain
In Aankhon ki waabasta afsaaney hazaaron hain

Ek tum hi nahi tanhaa, ulfat main meri ruswaa
Is shahar main tum jaise diwaaney hazaaron hain

Ik hum hi mai aankhon se pilaatey hain
kahney ko to duniyaa main mai-khaaney hazaaron hain

Is sham-e-farozaan ko aandhi se daraatey ho
Is sham-e-farozaan ke parwaaney hazaaron hain



"There are thousand crazy men for my eyes intoxication
these eyes have spun a thousand tales

You are not the only one who has disgraced himself for my love
There are thousand like you in this city.

There are thousands of pubs in the world,
but iam the only one who can feed you a drink from eyes.

you are threatening this bright flame with a storm
This bright flame has a thousand moths(fans)"

All the songs are sung by asha except for one " Zindagi Jab Bhi" by Talat Aziz.
zindagi jab bhi teri bazm mein laati hai hamen
ye zamin chand se behatar nazar aati hai hamen

.....
.....
har mulaqat ka anjaam judai kyun hai
ab to har vaqt yahi baat satati hai hamen


when life bring you close to me,
this world looks more beautiful than the moon to me,

why should separation be the conclusion of every meeting?
Now every second, this is the question that troubles me
This is what talat said about that song."Zindagi jab bhi:"
Khayyam Saab is a perfectionist. For the line surkh phoolon se mahal uth-ti hui in this song from Umrao Jaan, he wanted the word phoolon to be spoken in Lucknowi Urdu andaaz and not in the Hyderabadi Urdu way. He took pains to get it right. To this day I do not like my own singing in this song. But Khaiyyam Saab said it was fine and till today, it is one of my most popular numbers. Incidentally, it was my first ever film solo. Khaiyyam Saab kept a promise he had made to me at a private mehfil in Mumbai, in 1978. I also loved the songs I sang for him in Lorie.
1981 was an intresting year.There were lot of good movies competing for the awards.Movies like Chakra, sai parajpaye's Chashme Buddoor, k.balachander's Ek Duje Ke Liye,shyam benegal's Kalyug, hrishikesh mukherjee's Naram Garam, Aparna sen's 36 chowringhee lane etc.

Asha won the National Award for best singer for umrao jaan and rekha for best acting.I feel rekha's performance was average and she does not deserve an national award for the film.jeniffer kendal's beautiful protrayal of "Miss Violet Stoneham" in "36 Chowringhee Lane" was far more superior than rekha's performance.But some how the award was given to rekha.

In film fare(It wasn't that commercial as it is now) khayyam won the best Music director, and muzaffar ali best director.Chakra was not considered with umrao jaan for the national awards, but was considered in the film fare.so the fim fare best actress and art direction went deservingly to smita patil and Bansi Chandragupta for chakra.Shahryar lost the lyrics category to Anand Bakshi for Ek Duuje Ke Liye.


khaiyyam


***Latest news is that umrao jaan is being remade by j.P.Dutta with Priyanka chopra or Aishwarya rai in the lead.

Hear the umrao jaan songs here

Links

Khaiyyam
The courtesan of lucknow at amazon.com

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