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This article is about the 1981 film directed by Muzaffar Ali. For the 2006 film with the same title and subject directed by J.P. Dutta starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan, see Umrao Jaan .

Umrao Jaan (Urdu: امراؤ جان, Hindi: उमराव जान) is a Bollywood film released in 1981. It is based on the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada (1905), written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa based on the famous Lucknow courtesan. The film starred Bollywood actress Rekha.


In the year 1840, a young girl named Amiran (Seema Sathyu) is kidnapped from her family by their neighbour, Dilawar Khan (Satish Shah) and sold to Madam Khanum Jaan (Shaukat Kaifi) who owns a brothel where she trains courtesans (tawaif). Amiran, renamed Umrao Jaan, learns to read, write, dance, sing, and charm wealthy men. She is no common prostitute, but a cultured woman trained to captivate men of wealth and taste.

A grown-up Umrao Jaan, (Rekha), catches the eye of Nawab Sultan (Farooq Shaikh), and the two fall in love. But the Nawab must marry to please his family, and Umrao's heart is broken.

She meets a dashing bandit chieftain, Faiz Ali (Raj Babbar), who wooes and wins her. She flees with her dacoit, hoping to marry him and leave the world of the courtesan far behind. But her lover is killed by local police and she is left alone, with no choice but to return to her old life.

Soon, the British attack the city of Lucknowmarker and the residents, including Umrao Jaan, are forced to flee. Umrao's party of refugees stop in a small village near Lucknow. The residents ask the courtesan to sing and dance. Umrao, looking about her, realizes that this is her village, Faizabad, her family, the place from which she was kidnapped. She had been so young when kidnapped that she had forgotten it all, but now it all returns to her.

She sings the song, Yeh kya jagah hai doston? -- What kind of place is this, friends? -- a veiled reference to her feelings of dismay at being treated like a pariah entertainer by her very own people. Afterwards, she meets her mother and younger brother, who had thought that she was dead. Her mother would be happy to welcome her back into the family, but her brother forbids it—she is tainted by her profession and must not return to embarrass them.

At the end of the film, Umrao returns to the now-deserted and looted brothel in Lucknow and finds she is left alone, with nothing but her profession and her poetry.

Critical reception

Rekha was praised for her acting, but the box office returns were just average. The supporting characters were played by Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Shaikh, Raj Babbar and Bharat Bhushan. Critics responded favourably to the carefully done historical setting.

The soundtrack was composed by Khayyam and the lyrics were penned by Shahryar. Several songs from the film, sung by Asha Bhosle, are considered classics of filmi music: "Dil cheez kya hai", "Justuju Jiski Thi", "In ankhon ki masti", and "Yeh kya jagah hai doston".

Awards and nominations

1981 Songs from the movie

Songs Performed By Written By
"Dil Cheez Kya Hai" Asha Bhosle Akhlaq Mohammed Khan AMK Shahryar
"In Aankhon Ki Masti" Asha Bhosle Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Jab Bhi Milti Hai" Asha Bhosle Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Jhoola Kinne Dala" Shahida Khan Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Justuju Jiski Thi" Asha Bhosle Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Kahe Ko Byahi Bides" Jagjit Kaur Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Raagmala" Mustafa Khan, Runa Prasad, Shahida Khan, Ustad Ghulam Sadiq Khan Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Yeh Kya Jagay Hai Doston" Asha Bhosle Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'
"Zindagi Jab Bhi" Talat Aziz Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar'

2003 drama by Rana Sheikh

Umrao Jaan Ada was directed by Rana Sheikh and the storyline was written by prominent poet Zohra Nigah. The drama was first released by Geo TV. Starring: Amna Bano, Shabbir Jan, Bushra Ansari, Faisal Qureshi, Humayun Saeed, Adnan Siddique, Sadia Imam, Badar Khalil, Mahmood Aslam, Jamshed Ansari, Imran Abbas, Atiqa Odho, and Shakeel. Guest appearances: Meera, Resham, and Jiya AliDirector: Rana Sheikh Costume Designer: Bunto Kazmi, Asma AkbarJewelry designer: Rehana SehgalChoreographer: Nighat Chaudhry

2006 remake by J.P. Dutta

A remake of Umrao Jaan was released on 3 November 2006. It is directed by J.P. Dutta and stars Aishwarya Rai as Umrao Jaan, Sunil Shetty as Faiz Ali, Puru Raaj Kumar as Gauhar Mirza and Abhishek Bachchan as Nawab Sultan. Shabana Azmi portrays Madam Khanum Jaan (notably, Azmi's own mother, Shaukat Kaifi, portrayed Madam Khanum Jaan in the original version of the film). The music is composed by Anu Malik and the lyrics are penned by Javed Akhtar.


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