Umrao Jaan has been an educating experience’ – Aishwarya Rai

How much were you influenced by the earlier Umrao Jaan?

My memory of the earlier Umrao Jaan was blurred because I watched it as a Sunday movie many years ago. I didn’t remember the movie in terms of scenes and its narrative, although the songs and the visuals were alive in my mind. 


So the earlier Umrao Jaan comes to mind in terms of visual but in terms of content I came afresh for J.P. Dutta’s narrative.


I was here to deliver to his satisfaction as an actor in his movie. So there was no point of me hiring a DVD and taking references from the earlier one. I don’t believe in that mode of work.


Was it challenging to play the role of a courtesan?

It was the first time I was playing a courtesan in the era that she belonged to and of devotional art she gets to explore. So I had a very exciting time creatively.


Did you have to do any preparation or research to play this character?

I thank my teacher and my director J.P. Dutta. All I can say is that I have been an attentive student.


Besides playing Rekha’s character in Umrao Jaan, you also share a personal rapport with her. Would you want her to see the film?

She has been an audience to a couple of my movies. I also share a personal rapport with her, so I would love to know her response.


You have been a part of a action film Dhoom:2 on one side and classical Umrao Jaan on the other side. What has your experience been while working on Umrao Jaan?

I have been a part of Dhoom:2 and am a part of today’s generation. But a movie like Umrao Jaan is an incredible education and keeps us culturally connected.


When the media asks me how well versed in Urdu I am or how well prepared was I with the mujra, adaa, shaayari and ghazal, I would like to say that Umrao Jaan has been an educating experience.


The brief impressions that we have had of shaayaris and ghazals has been in through cinema. So to revisit it and reconnect on a much deeper level and to get re-educated by J.P. saab, O.P saab, Javed saab and Shabana Azmi, who are well versed with the culture in Umrao Jaan. It’s an education for me and I am enriched.


It’s fantastic that movies like these are made where we are connected to our Indian roots.

Rohini Bhandari

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