The tragic story of the innocent Ameeran transforming into the Umrao Jaan really wrenches your emotions. The transformation from the Ameeran you see in the beginning of the film to the Umrao Jaan Ada you see in the middle of the film, and then back to Ameeran in the latter reels of the film is FANTASTIC.
Aishwarya (and I'm not writing this as a biased fan), was amazing. She's proven WHY she's still in the business despite not having a release for so long. She captures the essence of Ameeran AND Umrao very well. The way she expresses through her eyes has to be seen to be believed
Abhishek is not there much in the second half, but in the first half he is good in his role. I wouldn't say excellent, just good. But his scene right before the interval is truly applause worthy.
Shabana Azmi...wow what can I say? I dont think I need to even explain her. Only she coud have played Khanum Saab the way she did.
Sunil Shetty was decent, nothing special, but he didnt annoy me like he usually does so I guess that's a good sign.
Divya Dutta is great in a small role. Ayesha Jhulka, Puru Raj Kumar, etc. are all adequate.
Overall, UJ was a job well done by JP Dutta. But I agree with a lot of the reviews that say that it drags at times. The first half drags quite a bit especially the Abhi-Ash scenes...the passion just wasn't there. Don't get me wrong, they were great together...but the passion needed between Umrao and Nawab just wasn't there. At least not as much as it should have been to make a bigger impact. The first half is 2 hours in itself, which is way too long. It could have been trimmed 20 minutes at least. But the second half more than makes up for it. The way Umrao's world comes crashing down on her is captured beautifully. I just LOVED the second half!
Some note-worthy scenes:
-Umrao first meets Nawab Sultan
-Ameeran arrives at the kotha
-Scenes right before the interval
-Ameeran returns home
-the Umrao-Nawab confrontation
-When Khanum tells the women to flee the kotha
Anu Malik's music is really melodious and a pleasure to hear, but I wish the first half wasn't so LOADED with songs. It was literally one song after another. Also, a song like Jhute Ilzaam, of such calibre, should have been placed at a point where it had a bigger impact. It was too random where it was placed. Aishwarya's dancing was good, but I have to admit I expected a BIT more. JP Dutta said he didn't want his Umrao to sit and dance, but there was still a lot of that. We've all seen Ash's ability as a dancer and I know that the dances could have been a tad more powerful. By FARRRRRRR my favourite was Pooch Rahe Hain, the one where she is in the blue dress. Her dance is MESMERIZING and the emotions she conveys are SO amazing. I could watch that song over and over and over again! Some other fav's were Main Na Mil Sakoon, Salaam. So the music was great, but some songs needed to be placed better.
The film is visually STRIKING, the lavish sets are SO nice. Lots of eye candy. It really takes you back in time. The cinematography at times was great, other times it was not so great. Like you could easily tell when they pushed the ZOOM IN and ZOOM OUT button, and I didnt like that. But the angles that the shots were taken at were really effective.
Umrao Jaan is no masterpiece, but it is by FARRRRR worth a watch. Yes, the first half drags, but the second half makes up for it. Aishwarya's performance is absoulutely brilliant.
3.8/5...couldn't decide between 3.5 and 4!