Umrao Jaan | Chicago Reader

Umrao Jaan

Like the 1981 film of the same title, this lush but lumbering Bollywood melodrama was adapted from Mirza Ruzwa's acclaimed Urdu novel Umrao Jan Ada. Told in flashback, the movie follows the misfortunes of a courtesan in 19th-century Lucknow (Aishwarya Rai) who's sold to a high-class brothel and schooled in music, dance, and poetry. She falls for a local nawab (Abhishek Bachchan), but after she's sold again, to a bandit (Sunil Shetty), things go downhill fast. Shabana Azmi nearly steals the show as the pragmatic, betel-chewing madam, though it's hard to look away from Rai, even if she's weeping most of the time. J.P. Dutta directed. In archaic Urdu with subtitles. 190 min.

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