Umrao Jaan (1981 film)

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Umrao Jaan
Umrao Jaan 1981 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMuzaffar Ali
Written by
Based onUmrao Jaan Ada
by Mirza Hadi Ruswa
Produced byMuzaffar Ali
CinematographyPravin Bhatt
Edited byB. Prasad
Music byMohammed Zahur Khayyam
  • Integrated Films
  • S. K. Jain & Sons
Release date
  • 2 January 1981 (1981-01-02)
Running time
145 minutes
Budget50 lakh[2]

Umrao Jaan is a 1981 Indian period musical drama film directed by Muzaffar Ali and starring Rekha as the eponymous character. Based on the 1905 Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada, the film tells the story of a Lucknow courtesan and her rise to fame.


In the year 1840, a girl named Amiran is kidnapped from her family in Faizabad and sold to Khanum Jaan, the madam of a brothel in Lucknow who teaches young courtesans. Renamed Umrao Jaan, Amiran turns into a cultured woman trained to captivate men of wealth and taste.

Umrao catches the eye of Nawab Sultan and the two fall in love, but the relationship comes to an end when Nawab reveals he must marry in order to please his family. Umrao then becomes infatuated with bandit chieftain Faiz Ali, who woos and wins her heart. She elopes with him, but is forced to return to Lucknow after Ali is killed by local police.

Some time later, British forces lay siege to Lucknow and the residents evacuate the city. Umrao's party of refugees stops in a small village, which Umrao recognizes as Faizabad. The residents fail to recognize her, however, and ask her to dance for their pleasure.

Afterwards, she reunites with her family, who believed her to be dead. Her mother is happy to welcome Umrao back, but her brother forbids it and orders Umrao to never return. She returns to Lucknow to find the brothel looted and deserted.



Release and reception[edit]

According to author Anitaa Padhye's Ten Classics (English), Umrao Jaan was released theatrically on 2 January 1981.[4]

Rekha was praised for her acting, and she was awarded the National Award for her portrayal of the central character.[5] But the box office returns were just average.[6] The supporting characters were played by Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Shaikh, Raj Babbar and Bharat Bhushan. Critics responded favourably to the carefully done historical setting.

The soundtrack was composed by Khayyam and the lyrics were penned by Shahryar. Several songs from the film, sung by Asha Bhosle, are considered classics of filmi music: "Dil Cheez Kya Hai", "Justuju Jiski Thi", "In Ankhon Ki Masti Ke", and "Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston". Today, Umrao Jaan is considered at par with other cult classics such as Pakeezah (1972) and is widely acclaimed as one of India's great cinematic magnum opus.[5]


The music of the film was composed by Khayyam, while the lyrics were penned by Shahryar.

1."Dil Cheez Kya Hai"ShahryarAsha Bhosle6:06
2."In Ankhon Ki Masti Ke"ShahryarAsha Bhosle5:42
3."Jab Bhi Milti Hai"ShahryarAsha Bhosle1:28
4."Jhoola Kinne Dala"ShahryarUstad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Shahida Khan Nizami2:31
5."Justuju Jiski Thi"ShahryarAsha Bhosle4:37
6."Kahe Ko Byahi Bides"Amir Khusrow[7]Jagjit Kaur4:52
7."Raagmala"ShahryarUstad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Runa Prasad, Shahida Khan5:22
8."Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston"ShahryarAsha Bhosle6:07
9."Zindagi Jab Bhi"ShahryarTalat Aziz4:51
10."Pratham Dhar Dhyan" Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan 


Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
29th National Film Awards Best Actress Rekha Won [8]
Best Music Direction Mohammed Zahur Khayyam Won
Best Female Playback Singer Asha Bhosle for "Dil Cheez Kya Hai" Won
Best Art Direction Manzur Won
29th Filmfare Awards Best Director Muzaffar Ali Won [9]
Best Actress Rekha Nominated
Best Music Director Mohammed Zahur Khayyam Won


Salim–Sulaiman adapted the film into a musical play, Umrao Jaan Ada - The Musical, in 2019. The theatrical adaptation was directed by Rajeev Goswami with Pratibha Baghel in the titular role of the courtesan.[10]


  1. ^ "National Film Archive of India". Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ Subramaniam, Chitra (15 April 1980). "Umrao Jaan attempts to recapture aristocratic grandeur of Awadh". India Today. Living Media. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  3. ^ Cast and crew IMDb.
  4. ^ Padhye, Anitaa (2020). Ten Classics. Manjul Publishing. p. 313. ISBN 978-93-89647-82-2.
  5. ^ a b A.k, Arun (24 June 2021). "What made 'Umrao Jaan' iconic". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  6. ^ Umrao Jaan topactresses, boxofficeindia
  7. ^ Pankaj Rag (2006). Dhuno Ki Yatra. Rajkamal Prakashan. p. 345. ISBN 978-81-267-1169-7.
  8. ^ "29th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Filmfare Nominees and Winners" (PDF). The Times Group. 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  10. ^ Khan, Murtaza Ali (8 August 2019). "The aroma of Awadh". The Hindu.

External links[edit]