#41 #Scriptors100BestFilms #UmraoJaan

The life of ‘Umrao Jaan Adaa’, a courtesan whose ‘Nazms and Ghazals’ became part of literature, was penned down by Mirza Hadi Ruswa in a novel. This novel was then adapted by then debutante director Muzaffar Ali and spun into an all time classic movie known for its perfection and depiction of grandeur of Awadh and its dedication to art, poetry and music.

Umrao Jaan is a brave and eventful tale of Ameeran, who is abducted in her late childhood and taken away from her parents and brother due to social rivalry. She is then sold to a  ‘Kotha’ (Here the ‘Kotha’ wasn’t a mislead Filmy ‘Kotha’ like Muqaddar ka sikandar or Mandi, it was a place where elite men came to experience the musical poetry and appreciated the art as art) and is renamed at Umrao Jaan. Umrao goes on to excel in her arts and becomes famous and she goes on to sing in delightful pride, ‘In aakhon ki masti ke, mastaane hazaaron hain’ (Thousands of hearts beat, when these eyes show up their magic). In her journey to discover herself she ends up reaching back to her home where now she is an unaccepted family member. She is disillusioned by the truth and sings… ‘Ye kya jagah hai doston, ye kaun sa dayaar hai, Hadh e nigaah tak jahaan gubar hi gubar hai‘ ( What is this place, I have reached back to where I cannot see any trace of my existence).Umrao Jaan 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 glamour, 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 armour,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 poetry 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 loneliness and pain, throughout the movie. 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 team which comprised of Muzaffar Ali and Suhasini Ali (Who then was one of the key communist leaders of UP)

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. Instead of Lata, for this movie Muzaffar chose Asha, and for Asha this till date happens to be the most appreciated album for her

You might know that Asha Bhosle’s voice was recorded at a scale lower than her normal voice to give Rekha a husky, sensuous throat it seems. Asha Bhonsle has set out with a mission to intoxicate you with this beautiful melody. Each of the songs, may it be Kaahe ko byaahi bides (Inspired from Awadhi wedding folk) or Pratham Dhar Dhyàn (Hardcore Indian Classical Vocal) or any of the ghazals or Nazms’ are beyond commentary.

This film belongs completely to two people Rekha ( Who is said, was so happy and keen on the script of Umrao Jaan that she agreed to travel by train, due to low budget,  instead of flight to reach the shoot on time ) and Muzaffar Ali, to whom this movie was nothing short of a monument in itself. Muzaffar Ali gave up all he had to make this marvel. He was helped by all. Havelis were sponsored by Nawabs of Awadh, Costumes and jewellery were borrowed from the Grand legacy of Nawabs. Till date this movie vouches of the most realistic depiction of Nawabi Culture of Awadh. Muzaffar Ali along with Javed Siddiqui and Shama Zaidi wrote Umrao Jaan to perfection of all sorts. Lyrics by Shahryaar are timeless.

The movie won accolades of Awards-

National Award for best Actress- Rekha
National Award for best Music – Khayyam
National Award for best Playback Singing – Asha Bhonsle
National Award for best Art Direction – Manzur
Filmfare award for Best Direction – Muzaffar Ali
Filmfare award for Best Music – Khayyam

In all time best scripts with best lyrics this movie will always end up in the top ten of Bollywood.

Yohaann Bhaargava
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Yohaann Bhaargava

Head - Business Development at SCRIPTORS
Movie Buff. Yohaann is a film critic with Jagran Prakashan Limited. He has been associated with Print and TV media as a branding professional. Presently he is a screenwriter trying to bring in some good scripts up for Bollywood. At Scriptors he works as a writer and handles business development.
Yohaann Bhaargava
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