It would've been the casting coup of the year. Had J.P. Dutta not revised his original vision of Umrao Jaan Adaa's poignant journey from innocence to heartbreak, Kareena Kapoor would have been sitting right opposite Aishwarya Rai in Umrao Jaan. JP's original vision included the Nawab Abhishek Bachchan's marriage to another woman with his tawaif-beloved Umrao singing opposite the marital pair. JP wanted the bride to be someone who could rival Aishwarya's zillion-dollar beauty. And who better equipped to fill the bill than Kareena? Since she was his god-child whom he had introduced in Refugee, JP had more or less zeroed in on Kareena as the bride in the Nawab's wedding sequence. But then the script changed. Says JP, "What you're saying is true enough. I did plan to show Abhishek and his bride at the wedding with the Mujra being performed by the tawaif. But then I changed my mind and scrapped the sequence completely. It had been done in too many Kotha films. Remember Meena Kumari performing a Mujra at Raj Kumar's wedding in Pakeezah or at Sunil Dutt's wedding in Ghazal? And Hema Malini's Main tawaif hoon mujra karungi at Rajesh Khanna's wedding in Mehbooba? I didn't want to walk down the clichd path. My interpretation of the tawaif's tale had to be entirely my own. I didn't want to resort to any of the clichs. Besides, people who're cribbing about the film's length would've had more reason to do so." JP isn't the least apologetic about the film's length. "Weren't Lagaan and Devdas even longer? And this year Rang De Basanti and Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna have gone beyond three hours?. Why single out Umrao Jaan for the 'crime' of exceeding the prescribed duration? I'm used to people objecting to my film's length. LOC was nearly four hours long. I can understand the need to prune down a film if it goes to those lengths. But here I'm doing a historical, with seven songs which occupy an hour. Where could I cut?"
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