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Movie Review: Umrao Jaan

December 2006
Movie Review: Umrao Jaan

Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi

Director: JP Dutta

Music Director: Anu Malik

First things first. You've got to salute J.P. Dutta for having the guts to remake a period romance like Umrao Jaan, which still lingers on in one's collective consciousness. But the biggest letdown in his resplendent version is its painfully tedious length and the music, which is disappointing to say the least.

You come out of the hall without humming a single song and there are plenty of them. It's a pity that lyricist Javed Akhtar and composer Anu Malik who created magic for the director earlier in Border and Refugee fall flat this time. Also, there's an artificial feel to the milieu despite the film being peppered with classical Urdu words all the way.

And Aishwarya as the courtesan Umrao? Well, she looks beautiful, dances well and is riveting in parts. The actress has certainly worked hard at recreating a lost world of grandeur and you do admire her for taking up the challenge to play a role immortalised by the evergreen diva Rekha. But it is Aishwarya's co-star Abhishek Bachchan who actually impresses with his polished acting and his impeccable dialogue delivery. He lends a certain grace and depth to the role of the wimpish nawab, played by Farooq Shaikh in the original. Their chemistry too has an underlying passion.

Yes, the heroine looks ethereal, the costumes and sets are exquisite and the dialogues are powerful — yet all this, including a class act by Shabana Azmi, fail to infuse that vital ingredient, soul, into J.P. Dutta's Umrao Jaan. Something which was there aplenty in Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan.

And last but not the least, to hear Suniel Shetty speak Urdu is the ultimate earsore. The man can barely manage Hindi!

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