I was talking to an honorable guest from Lucknow and relates a wonderful story based from a movie I watched on TV2 sometimes ago. It is an artistic piece of work, set in Lucknow, directed by J.P. Dutta’s adapted from the Urdu novel “Umrao Jan Ada” by Mirza Haadi Ruswa (1905). Here is the synopsis:
In 1840, eight year old Amiran (Bansree Mandhani) is kidnapped from her home in Faizabad by Dilawar Khan (Vishwajeet Pradhan) who had been sent to jail based upon the evidence presented by Amiran’s father. To take his revenge, he kidnaps Amiran and sells her to a brothel in Lucknow, run by Khannum Jaan (Shabana Azmi). She is adopted by Bua Hussaini (Himani Shivpuri) and Maulvi Sahib (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) who treat her as their own daughter. In the company of Khurshid (Ayesha Jhulka), Bismillah (Divya Dutta) and one of the courtesan’s sons, Gauhar Mirza (Puru Rajkumar), Amiran learns the art of being a courtesan.
The young girl turns into an elegant, poetic beauty by the name of Umrao Jaan (Aishwarya Rai). Umrao’s beauty and poetry is enough to catch the eye of Nawab Sultan (Abhishek Bachchan). The two begin a passionate romance, but when his father finds out he disowns Nawab Sultan from his life, wealth and property. The penniless Nawab goes to his uncle’s Nazimuddin in Grahi to sort himself out, and Umrao prays every day for his return.
With his absence, Umrao catches the eye of Faiz Ali (Sunil Shetty) who wants her at all costs. He extends a hand of friendship to her and asks her to accompany him to his home in Daulatabad, Umrao accepts but only after she finds out that they will be travelling through Grahi. After a confrontation involving Faiz Ali’s men and the soldiers of Grahi, the party are arrested including Umrao. Faiz Ali is revealed to be a dacoit who has been pursued for years. Nawab Sultan hears that Umrao and Faiz Ali are in Grahi and he meets Ali in the prison. Faiz Ali manipulates the information concerning his time with Umrao, and implies to the Nawab that they had a sexual relationship. The Nawab confronts Umrao and – feeling that she betrayed him – shuns her and sends her back to Lucknow. Heartbroken, Umrao attempts to return to her old life, but fate has other plans for her.
In a drunken state, her childhood friend Gauhar Mirza becomes frustrated and rapes her. Soon thereafter the British attack the city and she is forced to leave Lucknow; however, before doing so, she forgives Gauhar Mirza. She and the refugees then separate after she decides to go to Faizabad. Umrao goes to her childhood home, and finds out her father is dead.
She meets her mother and brother, but they refuse to accept her because of her profession. Umrao, shunned by her family, her lover and society, leaves to return to Lucknow, but fate plays another joke and on her way out the city, she encounters the man who kidnapped and sold her to the brothel in the first place. Poor, wretched, homeless and injured, the man begs for pity (not recognizing that she is Amiran), and she essentially forgives him. Shunned by all and having forgiven those who destroyed her life, she lives the rest of her days in Lucknow with her poetry and ill fate.