Planet Bollywood
Umrao Jaan
Producer: Muzaffar Ali
Director: Muzaffar Ali
Starring: Rekha, Farooque Sheikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar.
Music: Khayyam
Lyrics: Shahryar, Amir Khusrau
Singers: Asha Bhosle, Talat Aziz, Jagjit Kaur, Shahida Khan, Ustad Ghulam, Mustafa Khan, Runa Prasad.
Audio On: HMV    Number of Songs: 9
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 8.5 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 listeners)
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Khayyam has composed classic albums such as β€œKabhie Kabhie”, β€œRazia Sultan”, β€œTrishul” and, of course, β€œUmrao Jaan” (and other less known albums like β€œAakhri Khat” and β€œPhir Subah Hogi” are also delights to treasure). In a career spanning from 1957 until now, he has worked on 47 albums in total. One cannot help but regret the fact that he does not compose for Indian films today and that his soundtracks are so few in comparison to other stalwarts such as

Naushad and S.D. Burman. It is some consolation then that he has given us so many jewels to listen to in his few albums. β€œUmrao Jaan” is a must-have in the CD collection of all Bollywood music lovers.

When one remembers β€œUmrao Jaan”, one also reminisces of Asha Bhosle’s lilting singing. She provides the voice for Rekha in the film and those songs remain ever-so popular today. She leaves me speechless every time I listen to her ghazals from this album. Needless to say, her renditions are mind blowing. β€œBas ek baar mera kahaan maan lijiye”, she implores in β€œDil Cheez Kya Hai Aap Meri Jaan Lijiye”. This song is about the good ol’ fashioned sacrifice that the girl is willing to make in the name of love. She is not only willing to lose her heart but her life too.

Shahryar brings across the girl’s romantic faith through his spirited poetry. She feels that her love is so strong that she can even pull the sky down for her beloved. Truly, nothing is an obstacle. β€œKahiye to aasmaan zameen par utaar laayen… Mushkil nahin hai kuch bhi agar thaan lijiye…”

Vanity is the name of the game in the next ravishing beauty by Asha, β€œIn Aankhon Ki Masti, Mastaane Hazaaron Hai”. This is a tribute to the power and nasha that lies hidden in enchanting eyes. In the bloom of her youth, the girl proudly declares how there are so many admirers in one city alone who have lost their hearts to her. β€œEk tum hi nahin tanha ulfat main meri ruswa, Is shahar main tum jaise deewane hazaaron hai” This is definitely rewind material… Asha’s voice is just sumptuous!

Umrao Jaan, like Devdas and Pakeezah and other famous Urdu/Hindi literary characters, is a character whose life is full of pain and loneliness. Her sadness is conveyed in β€œYeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston, Yeh Kaunsa Dayaar Hai”. She has escaped from her kotha and ventured into an unknown but familiar territory where she grew up as a child. She feels a resounding pinch of sorrow and very little joy. β€œNa bas khushi pe hai jahaan, Na gham pe ikhtiyaar hai” Her search for happiness is rarely ever fulfilled and that is explained in, β€œJustajoo Jiski Thi, Usko To Na Paaya Hum Ne”. Tragically, her dream of a happy life remains just that- a dream. β€œZindagi tujhko to bas khwaab main dekha humne” Life, for Umrao, is a thing… for her it never seems real. But, in β€œJab Bhi Milti Hai”, she calls for life to appear as real for her. She wishes to feel real emotions, real happiness and feel really alive. Life is inconsistent and its colors change endlessly. β€œZindagi roz naye rang badalti kyun hai?” All three songs are brought to life by Ashaji.

β€œZindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Main Laati Hai Hamein”, by Talat Aziz, adopts a different angle on the subject of life. It is about being grateful towards life and fate for bringing the man into the company of his true love. The chand is a popular subject for every romantic poet. Here, however, the poet says that the earth appears superior to the moon just for the mere presence of his beloved. β€œYeh zameen chand se behtar nazar aati hai hamein” Talat’s golden voice brings out that punch of romance expressed in the poetry. A splendid number.

As for the rest, they are situational numbers and cater for acquired tastes. Some of the pure Urdu words will be hard to understand for those not familiar with the language. β€œKahe Ko Byahi Bides” is a typical bride song sung by Jagjit Kaur. Fans of earthy rustic voices will appreciate

Shahida Khan in β€œJhoola Kinne Daala” and β€œPratham Dhar Dhyan” (where she is joined by Ustad Ghulam, Mustafa Khan and Runa Prasad). The former is quite sweet actually. The latter is a complex classical

ghazal that will most probably delight classical music fans and leave casual listeners scratching their heads. While the previous tracks by Asha and Talat are always popular, these three songs tend to get mixed reactions.

One thing is clear in the album of β€œUmrao Jaan”. The ghazals have an immortal soulful quality to them. How one wishes that Khayyam saab would return to composing scores for Hindi films to show other current music directors what the meaning of soul and melody is. Today, Khayyam abstains from the film/music industry because he feels that it is hard to create good music when so many films are mediocre and lack in creativity. What a shame.

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