And then there is the new Umrao Jaan..

Posted: October 14, 2006 in Uncategorized

Yeah, I missed mentioning it in my earlier posting on remakes.
What is my feeling about this new Umrao Jaan?

Lets start with the maker, J. P. Dutta.
I see that he generates a lot of interest and respect from the industry.
Like each time his ‘next big film’ is talked about, written about, etc.
Maybe I might be missing something here, but honestly speaking, I don’t remember his last great winning film! So whats the brouhaha about, with J P Dutta’s films? Is it just that he has the money to get big stars together for his films, which are big budget ones and which is the reason for the great interest that he generates??

So from that point of view, I have a doubt about the film, in the first place. Unlike a Sanjay Leela Bhansali who remade Devdas (and even then, my expectations were very low – inspite of the HUGE respect that I have for SLB), its only J P Dutta who is making Umrao Jaan. If a Refugee is anything to go by, I am not sure he has the ability to convey a certain romanticism that Umrao Jaan demands.

Aishwarya Rai doing what Rekha did? Well, this will be the huge factor, whether the film succeeds or not. This is the absolute clincher. Is Aishwarya just a little too perfect a beauty? More of a princess than a courtesan? Rekha had a clear sensuality, and with her brown features, could do complete justice to the role.
But heck, thats only as far as looks go. And certainly looks are not the be-all factor to do a good job of this role. There is dancing – which Aishwarya can do very well. But most importantly, there is acting. Where aside from a few great ones, Aishwarya has not been so good consistently. A HDDCS or a Taal were the clear exceptions. In between, there have been a host of oridinary films, and ordinary acting. Blinded by her perfect looks, we may often miss the point. But fact remains that often enough, she has given very ordinary performances. If JP Dutta manages to bring out the best in her, the film may yet work well.

And then there is the other critical factor – no, not Abhishek – I am referring to the music. Where Khayyam was absolutely brilliant in the original (we are still haunted by those tunes he composed – “In aankhon ki masti mein, maikhane hazaron hai.. ” and others!). And against that, we have Anu Malik. Not an inspiring comparison at all. But I would hasten to add that Anu Malik, in between his plagiarised tunes, has come up with some extremely good original compositions too. So if this is one of his better efforts, again, we could be pleasantly surprised.

And why should Abhishek not be a factor? Well, at least in the original, it was Rekha all the way. Farouqe Shaikh who played the role that Abhishek is playing in the new one, was hardly there in a few scenes. And there was little that he had to do, except look all lost in the beauty of Umrao Jaan!! So unless that role has been enhanced for the new UJ, Abhishek cannot have a large role to play in the success or otherwise, of this new version.

And like Devdas, I have a question about the theme and its relevance to today’s times. Does today’s audience go to a Devdas or an Umrao Jaan, viewing it like an incredulous fantasy (“oh, how they lived in those days, maaaan, wasn’t that too funny to be believed?!”) or would they actually identify it to be a real story??

Back when Dilip Kumar’s Devdas was released, or when Rekha’s Umrao Jaan came by, there was still an audience present who identified with those characters. In case of the former, people had seen such undying love, sacrifice and the like. In case of the latter, there were people who had seen or heard of the Lucknowi courtesans and those mehfils.

But today, a generation later, are these concepts that are not identified with at all? Today a dancer is associated with a dance bar (“Chandni Bar”) and not the mujras as seen in a Pakeezah or the original Umrao Jaan.

On that concern, I wonder whether these films can make a dent with today’s audience at all?!

All in all, my feeling is that Umrao Jaan has a chance of success. A lot of things have to go right for it. But potentially it can work. Lets see if it does or not..

  1. RPM says:

    Another risk with such remakes is that some of the audience may go there to compare this one with the earlier one. Which is also not the right mindset that the filmmakers want the audience to be in.

  2. SPM says:

    Yes, there will be the constant comparison. Is Aishwarya looking as good as Rekha? Can she emote as well? Can she dance like her? Is Anu Malik’s music as good as Khayyam’s?
    So Anu Malik may do a great job, and yet not measure up in comparison. And viewers will feel disappointed!

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