watching surviving Umrao Jaan on sunday, I wanted to write a real witty sharp post. Then I went over to Katrins (of mission BAS fame) Blog and read her review. She said it all. So I took her permission to translate the review into English and post it here for your reading pleasure.
Last friday Umrao Jaan played in Munich and ever since I´m trying to decide whether I liked it at all. The answer is and remains: Uhmm. In parts. Now and then. Whenever nobody is talking. Especially when Aish is dancing. That´s something she is divine at and thank god does quite often here. So you´re at least left with something to watch, instead of fighting sleep. Unfortunatly something went considerably wrong on the dramaturical side of Umrao Jaan.
But first the positive: I already brought up Aishs drop to your knees worthy dances, they are so awesome, you can´t mention that often enough. What is more, she looks fantastic. Most notably in her breathtaking costumes, which I this minute want to have in my wardrobe. All of them. Abhishek is yummi without end, even though his acting is not on a par. The casting of the side characters is posh - I, as usual, did not get myself informed before the film so I sat in the cinema and had to crow internally, Aruna!!
The only real weak point in the cast is Sun(e)i(e)l Shetty, who is pretty much flagging and also got to wear that stupid Aladdin dress. The costumes and sets otherwise are wonderfully sumptuous. Every corner shines and sparkles. In short: A feast for the eyes that needs to be seen on the big screen. If. If you are prepared to ignore the fact that Umrao Jaan is crap damatization wise.
(Actually most of the time I think it is pretty stupid to see a remake only in comparison to the original, but I can´t refrain from a few comparative comments) Even the 1981 adaption is not really an action thriller, it´s more a very quiet, partly almost hypnotic film. A good deal only gets hinted at, only few things are explained - sometimes as a viewer you almost feel left alone, as a lot is left to your own interpretation (Especially if you are dependent on the subtitles that are supposedly not that good)
The screenwriters of the new film supposedly were asked to much of - the makers in any case decided that everything needs to be explained so that even the last mobilephone user in the audience got what was told. And then a bit more. Since it might be that somebody did not pay attention for the last 10 minutes. So everything is retold. In fact every spoken word and everything that has been narrated. More then once. Often. And just to be on the safe side. Once more.
And as if that wasn´t enough, the dialogs are staged in a way that is visually appealing but still leading to aggression after 10 minutes. The actors - first of all Aish and Abhishek - are almost not allowed to act. The have to declaim their dialogues in aesthetically draped poses, perfect for beautiful screenshots, but drop dead boring if you are forced to watch for 3 hours.
That´s especially true for the 2
days hours before the intermission. After it you get quite a lot of plot strung together and parts one expected more of in fast succession. Frustration almost garanteed.
By the way. The story line has been through quite some changes in comparison to the 1981 film. Which e.g. leads to some characters being depicted in a more negative way in the new version. I thought these changes to be quite interesting (something had to keep me from falling asleep..) and now I´m pretty curious about the novel, which I have to get soon. I´m dying to know which picturization is closer to the novel. I had the impression that the new one was more novel like then the Rekha one, especially because of the "literary" frame plot in which an old Umrao Jaan narrates her life´s story to Mirza Ruswa (that was meant to be him, wasn´t it?) - but I can also be totally wrong.
Conclusion desired? If you don´t have anything better to do and want to treat your eyes to some eyecandy go and preferably watch it on the big screen. On the other hand you could also go and clean your bathroom or do your taxes, that´s for sure more fun but not that beautiful. Although. If you have a bath like the one in the movie....
Vah. Vah. I can pretty much second every word. Except maybe for the Suniel part. The scene in Umraos chamber where he, overwhelmed by passion/emotion/whatever takes off his turban led to a collective sigh in the female audience.
November 13, 2006