Umrao Jaan was one of the first Bollywood movies I'd seen, so I decided to revisit it the other day to see if my opinion had changed a year (and several Bollywood films) later.
Two things came out of this experience. First, I realized I didn't remember much about it all, because I sort of felt like I was viewing it for the first time. Second, I actually enjoyed and appreciated the film much more.
During my initial viewing of Umrao Jaan, I lost interest towards the middle of the movie. Not so this time. In fact, I was quite absorbed in Umrao's woeful life, from beginning to end. I don't know, maybe I wasn't used to the length of a Bollywood movie back then, because this time I actually thought the movie flowed together pretty well...the script stuck to the story and the ending wasn't dragged out. That's something to applaud in Bollywood!
And although I must have thought Rekha was a natural as Umrao Jaan, this time I was actually mesmerized by her performance. Technically, she's not one of my favorite actresses, but I definately have a girl-crush on her! She was Umrao Jaan...Every bat of her long black eyelashes, every alluring glance, every purse of her ruby lips...she had it down to a science. Rekha made the perfect courtesan as she bewitched men with her charm, drawing them deep into her web of seduction.
Naweb Sultan illustrates this for us with this smitten stare...
Wow, look at the intensity in his left eye! How could Umrao resist?
But all jokes aside, Farooq Shaikh portrayed Sultan appropriately. He was refined and composed, yet had a weakness for Umrao he was unable to shake. His role was minor in comparison to Rekha's, but his entrance in the film was a relief because I was beginning to fear her love interest would end up being Naseeruddin Shah's annoying character. And thank God it wasn't.
Besides the performances, I also couldn't resist taking a bunch of screenshots for this blog's banner...there's just something about the look of the film. So classic yet not forced. I could watch the movie just for the visuals alone.
I'm aware that Umrao Jaan's music is considered timeless in Bollywood. Since I don't speak Hindi, I have no right to argue, but I really only enjoyed them because of Rekha's dance moves.
Poor, poor Umrao Jaan. She had such a tragic and lonely life, and my heart just bled for her. Yet her character seemed so human to me because she was longing for love more than anything else. I'm so glad I decided to watch her story again, because I literally saw it in a whole new light. Note to Bollywood: Give me more stories with a female at the center!
Text © Copyright 2008 Nida Nazir
Bitten By Bollywood
From ‘All Roads Lead to Ganga’ by Ruskin Bond
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