Umrao Jaan (2006): “Khuda Hafiz”

68. Umrao Jaan (2006) — The sorry tale of a beautiful woman. The really suay sort of beautiful woman. And this movie will leave you in no doubt about the rainbow colours of Aishwarya Rai’s beauty. Didn’t think it was possible, but I think I overdosed on her! And there’s Dhoom 2 to go this Friday. Oh well, one must soldier on in these difficult times. So anyway, except for the soppy business of the protagonist’s mushy and ultimately doomed love affair, this turned out to be rather good, even approaching poetry in parts (despite initial fears and warnings). Unfortunately for the movie, the mushy and ultimately doomed love affair takes up three-quarters of the proceedings. You know something’s wrong when you’re hoping things will go sour for the lead and her lurver man pretty soon. Rai turned in a decent performance, especially when things went to pot — in fact, from the nadir onwards, there were glimpses of the magnificent in how she expressed her character’s dignity in the face of betrayal. And wah, you should check out the costume matched with the colour of her eyes, like the grey calm before a storm at sea. Must mention that Shabana Azmi was steady with her A-game, like a golden eagle perched on her silvery throne. Must also mention that the subtitles failed to do justice to what one can only assume is the mellifluous lyricism of the words spoken and sung. There were precious snippets like this, translated from Urdu:

I have forsaken the world
For the sake of my love.
For the sake of the world
My love has forsaken me.

But then there things like “Embress” and “i” all over the place, as though the subtitler got too caught up in the moment and gave up altogether. Then, Alka Yagnik as the voice of Umrao Jaan — wah wah wah. Though her highest notes were scary as usual. At the end of the day, one must conclude that this movie did not electrify in any memorable way (though there was an audience member who loudly remarked this was her second screening), whether it was due to lack of chemistry between Rai and Bachchan Jr, lack of immediacy in the story’s relative antiquity or lack of stricter discipline on the filmmakers’ part. Pity, pity, pity.

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