Saturday, November 04, 2006

Umrao jaan vs Umrao jaan

A classic by Mujaffar Ali which relies on subtlety is Umrao Jaan. Each actor and actress performs his or her role with an understatement that is poignant and poetic. Each Ghazal and song is crafted by the finest effort of Shahyrar and Khayyam, performed diligently by Asha and Talat, and picturized most elegantly on Rekha by cinematographer Praveen Bhatt. An era is recreated by attention to detail and where the tale is picturized to captivate both heart and head of audience is Umrao Jaan. Most of the actors, and perhaps all of the team involved in the making of the 1981 classic will call it one of their best, if not the best effort.

A blunder by JP Dutta which tries to show every tear that is mere glycerine effect, where melodrama is to a scale that can shame even the most moonstruck Bollywood fan is also Umrao Jaan. The poetry is shoddier than what most drunkards can spell out from cliched verses they have overheard in public toilets. Javed Akhtar must be asked to repent for committing his name to lyrics, it is a stigma, a sin that has marred his name as a poet for life in my books. No excuse for bad art, especially when you are bringing to life a novel that takes pride in creating a world of poetry. Umrao Jaan was the first great Urdu novel and this movie is the greatest insult we can watch to the concept, language and soul of the novel.

Ruswa, the author of 1903 book, must be crying in agony on watching the disgusting potrayal of both his story, and of his own self (Or if he wasn't Ruswa before, he deserves to be now). Anu Malik's characteristic "aaa" type interludes in the music (I almost imagined him thinking of making some remixes where he can insert words like Its raining, its raining), and music itself has you spellbound in imagining the total lack of imagination that the creative (!) team of the movie has.

More importantly the dialogues that lack depth and character have you initially laughing your teeth out. Then as the endless movie drags on, and your encyclopedia of curses runs out, you have tried moving into every position of utmost discomfort in your chair (and thanks to tea in the interval, you are still awake), you watch Bollywood cinema at its overdramatized, cliched, artless, pointless, mindless self. Brevity is the soul of wit, but you can't explain that to a dimwit.

A casting coup itself is more interesting than any coup worth reporting that took place in the history of humankind. Can you believe it? JP Dutta was able to rope in Suneel Shetty in the role of Faiz Ali, the dacoit. What an evocative face, what a celebrated artist! There is no other actor in Bollywood who could have matched up to his performance (;)) obviously he must have been in Dutta's mind when he planned his massacre, I mean the movie. Naseeruddin Shah is perhaps the best actor we have had and to replace him in an immortal role of Gauhar Mirza would have been hard: so Mr Director decided that it is irrelevant who does that act.

Aishwarya manages to look good, can't help it, was born with it, but does her all to make you cringe at her melodrama, which I could blame the director for. Abhishek does well within what he was offered. If you throw out a good hour of the movie, cut out most songs into half or don't repeat the ones that blare out every few minutes, if you scrap many of the dialogues, you will still find a movie that is hard to watch.

I went in to see the movie with lowest of expectations. I didn't expect any miracles, and didn't see any. I have nothing against actors, lyricist, director or music director of the movie, except that I must shout out my resentment in their doing such a shoddy job. Umraojaan is like poetry. Subtlety is the key. Less is more. To evoke, and not to show. To make one imagine, to make one feel is the basic principle. You may fault on a few things, you must not be allowed to do the crime so expensively, so lavishly. With or without contrasting it to old Umraojaan, the verdict is that JP Dutta's Umrao jaan, as Aishwarya's best dialogue in the movie (comes at the very start) puts it, is "kaun umrao, kisski jaan, aur kaisi ada" (Who Umrao, Whose life, and What Style): WORTH IGNORING.


indscribe said...

True, the film is a letdown.

Vivek said...


By atrakasya on Mon, 2006-11-06 04:08

Yeah, that guy had a problem with managing the pace of his movies. I recall seeing one of his early movies, called hathyar, featuring an early sanjay dutt, in a role reminiscent of “a stone for danny fisher”.

Dutta made it such a drag that I fell asleep in the theater. And in those days, considering how I’d lap up absolutely any movie, making me fall asleep in a theater was a unique achievement of j p dutta.

I think all of his movies can be very easily condensed into a 30 minute film without losing anything.
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that dutta dude
By ssm on Sun, 2006-11-05 06:33

.. i hold him personally responsible for 4 (was it 5 ?? .. 6 ??) hours of sheer unimaginable torture. i was arm-twisted into accompanying a friend to go see “LOC” the weekend it was released, and ended up sitting in the first row of the samosa-stained desi movie theater.

net gyaan from those 4-5 hours:
1) the soldiers who were at kargil deserved better than this so-called tribute
2) the leading men (LOC had practically all of them, right ?) in bollywood may have truckloads of moolah, but have probably never seen a dentist since their milk-teeth fell off
2b) (follow-up to above) never see a bollywood movie sitting in the front row
3) never ever ever see a j.p.dutta movie again
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Oki, good tht you told me,
By La Louve on Sat, 2006-11-04 18:23

Oki, good tht you told me, i wont go for tht one tomorrow then!
i’ve got two other options according to my sis in law,
those any good? let me know before tom noon! Smiling
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Vivek said...


Enzo comments: on Nov 4 2006 1:36PM
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The promos itslef looked so artificial that one would not be able to bribe to watch the film. Ash is beautiful, to be decked up and kept in a showcase as a barbie doll as she cant act for nuts.... I just dont get why the new directors are making these remakes and disgracing the originals..

Nargis Natarajan comments: on Nov 4 2006 1:21PM
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AHAAAAAAAAAA! I knew it toooooooooo! Nobody can beat the Diva.....Rekha. Thanks Vivek for the eye-opener. But will still go and see it

supriyad comments: on Nov 4 2006 1:04PM
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WOW! That was some yucky review! I for one am gonna stay as far away from this ash-infested Umrao Jann... common now Ash-the cold princess for the soul of poerty... blasphemyyy aarggh! :(

denice _menace comments: on Nov 4 2006 12:52PM
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ahh...I knew it!!

I lost half the hart to watch it..but will watch to see Ms Aishwarya..and her must see ensaumble..

Vivek said...

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its maya! comments: on Nov 5 2006 6:06AM
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not that I was gonna watch it 'cos its Ash... she can't act 4 nuts... very gud as pin up poster... Hope Abhishek hasn't lost it with this movie, he was getting 2 b good.
Hey people, had a question in mind. I always thot Mallika Sherawat acted well, she is a natural & it comes 2 her with ease. Am i feeling it or do u all feel that?

sharmila pn comments: on Nov 5 2006 5:53AM
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with aishwarya, and jp dutta, you should not have expected anything subtle or romantic, the comment would be apt, who Umrao, and what adda?

bharatborn comments: on Nov 5 2006 4:22AM
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Nargis, write a review after you see it. Didn't you like even the first part of Viruddh?
Good one Vivek. The original had atmosphere, though I'd found it dragging in parts. But the music was simply divine. i can never get bored of those songs.

Vivek said...

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limabeans comments: on Nov 5 2006 6:55PM
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Some one should make a list of this movies bloopers/blunders. How come Sunil shetty was wearing rubber soled boots in the movie?. The secondary characers were in and out of the movie ,and not developed. least of all Gauhar Mirza, who was immortalized by Naseer as the dispicable, rat. The costumes were cheaply designed: hot pink is not Ash's best color. The period/cultural and more glaring diction inaccuracies were shameful for such a high budget movie. Surley, a diction coach could have been hired. And while i accept artistic lisence in movies, correct etiquette, clothes etc were vital to portray the time period of the novel. So for example a muslim Nawab wearing a turban is inconceivable just like standing in a pool of water to diplay Ash's version of wet t-shirt. Awadh was landlocked, and no one knew swimiming or dared to tread water much less stand in a pool. Also, Nawabs were ridiculously curteous almost to the point of cowardly. So knifing a person in front of a woman would not have been imagineable to them, anymore than mouthing off their parent. The two things I liked in this movie. The jewelry..much better than the ones loaned by old monied Luknow families to Muzaffar Ali. . And my fav. Khubhashan Khuarbanda. His graceful acting redeemed the movie.

Vivek said...

I managed to stop typing, though the faults of the movie can be made into a PhD thesis in itself. As limabeans points out, the diction and the attention to detail, which I would imagine as the first few things that one must consider while making such a movie, are inaccurate and ludicrous. Aishwarya does act a shade better than I expected, based on her skill set, she tries harder, but the attempt is wasted in a role that director killed by dreaming of bringing it onscreen.

After KANK, Umrao Jaan again proves the dismal lack of creativity in these big buck stars and directors. At the same time, Omkara, and more recently Dor, require respect, celebration, and applause.

Vivek said...

More comments from

kaveriyamma comments: on Nov 6 2006 6:40PM
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You said it all in blog title: Umrao jaan vs Umarao jaan!

I will still see it because I love watching Umarao jaan on screen!
AKBER A. KASSAM comments: on Nov 6 2006 5:51PM
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Dear Vivek Sharma,

Thanks for your input, However, we never miss Princess Aishwarya Rai's movies, she is the best. !!!!!
RJoshi06 comments: on Nov 6 2006 3:35PM
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Thanks for the review. The old Umrao a masterpiece; definitely a very difficult act to follow. I'd never planned watch the new one, atleast not in theatre . But, maybe i'll watch it on video....'cause am definitely curious ! And i like Abhishek.

Vivek Sharma comments: on Nov 6 2006 3:10PM
delete this comment - block this userI believe Aishwarya may not be the one at fault here. If the direction, editing, script and background research is itself at fault, the protagonist is like a cripple. So while Ms Gomes, I am sure Rani would have fallen flat on her nose too, for no matter how talented you are as an actor, you can perform a role only as well as its written and defined.

Nishtha Gomes comments: on Nov 6 2006 2:45AM
delete this comment - block this userPerhaps a more graceful dancer like a younger Madhuri or Rani would have done justice to the role. Rekha looked ravishing in the older version. Pain, vulnerability, strength and grace...all were shown in the way Rekha played her part. Aishwarya didn't look vulnerable. She is pretty though her features have no softness or warmth.

gaurav002 comments: on Nov 6 2006 2:05AM
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I have seen both the movies and i like both of them.

Vivek said...

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misstree15 comments: on Nov 6 2006 11:48PM
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hi guys,

i guess what everyone is forgettin here is that theres no match to the good old days...remember how Rekha performed in each song? here Aishwarya is dancing like a robot with absolutely no expression on her was pathetic but truly Shabana again gave her best

Vivek said...


November 6, 2006
12:30 AM

Then as the endless movie drags on, and your encyclopedia of curses runs out, you have tried moving into every position of utmost discomfort in your chair (and thanks to tea in the interval, you are still awake), you watch Bollywood cinema at its overdramatized, clichéd, artless, pointless, mindless self. Brevity is the soul of wit, but you can't explain that to a dimwit.

You may fault on a few things, you must not be allowed to do the crime so expensively, so lavishly.

So, you really didn't like the movie, did you? :)

November 6, 2006
05:33 AM


I have not seen the movie except for the songs aired on different music channels but have read the reviews of the movie in newspapers and in few websites...

Don't you feel that the Rekha's "Umrao Jaan" was vintage one and Ash's "Umrao Jaan" is the neo-age techno one..Lucknowee Urdu has been replaced with anglicised Urdu..

New age and new movie....I guess that is J.P.Dutta's answer on his attempt and so are the loopholes...J.P. Dutta shouldn't have told he is doing a re-make of the old classic, he should have told he is trying his level best to do something on the storyline of the classic...

Vivek Sharma
November 6, 2006
09:45 AM

Tanay your comment is similar to what I had imagined before I stepped into the theatre. There is no new age Urdu, no adaptation of classic. In fact, in the beginning ten minutes, except for Ruswa, the movie seemed seeped into the Lucknowee tehzeeb, and Aishwarya's opening act was worth an applause. Had the movie been internally consistent, in story, character sketch or dialogue delivery, the movie would have worked for me.

With ot without comparing to old Umrao Jaan, one will find that the movie is badly executed. Poetry cited is as bad as it gets, and many scenes are not worth shooting at all.

November 6, 2006
05:35 PM

sivek vharma:

Mujaffar Ali?


Vivek said...

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November 7, 2006
07:35 AM

and the review remains the same. everyone is giving similar reviews, so though being a courageous man I cant gather any courage to go and watch this one even if given free tickets.
After all everyone cannot be wrong at the same time.

November 7, 2006
09:17 AM movie is a flop in the box-office?

November 7, 2006
09:50 AM

Well written critique.
Unfortunately this applies to every hindi movie made these days. Are there any new movies that you recommend at all, so that I can relive at least some of the things that made hindi movies great, without having to come away disgusted 15 min. into the movie?

Vivek Sharma
November 7, 2006
03:44 PM

I recommend Dor to everyone. Will post a review sometime soon.

November 8, 2006
09:05 AM

Anu Malik's characteristic "aaa" type interludes in the music (I almost imagined him thinking of making some remixes where he can insert words like "Its raining, its raining")

Hahahah!!! I caught him singing that boring Salaam song for some event in which Shabana Azmi was an honoree and all i could think of was "It's raining, it's raining". I think the trauma will never disappear.

Meanwhile, this was hilarious. bitter, but hilarious... and who can blame you, after all?

Siyaah said...

"To evoke, and not to show." That said it all.

Btw, nice blog.