While JP Dutta’s ‘Umrao Jaan’ is one of the most awaited movies of this year, film buffs are probably wondering if it will live up to Muzaffar Ali’s ‘Umrao Jaan’. And more importantly, if Aishwarya Rai, who’s playing the title role, will match up to Rekha’s amazing performance in the original version? “Of course,” says director JP Dutta, “Otherwise why would I take her in the movie? There is a certain timelessness about Ash that is vital to her character in ‘Umrao Jaan’.”
However, JP makes it clear that he was not inspired by Muzaffar Ali’s version of the film. “My father OP Dutta’s attempt to make a movie on a courtesan’s life has inspired me. He couldn’t complete it, so I decided to finished his work,” he says, reiterating that the film is entirely based on his vision.
For someone who’s specialised in ‘macho’ films, JP says making a woman centric film wasn’t difficult at all. “My mother is a strong woman and women in my films have always had a lot of dignity, like Smita Patil in ‘Ghulami’, Dimple Kapadia in ‘Batwara’, Meenakshi Sheshadri in ‘Kshatriya’ and Kareena Kapoor in ‘Refugee,” he reminds.
He clarifies that he’s never ‘used’ women for commercial gains at the box office. “I have never stooped to cheapen women. Just because my films dealt with weapons, war and patriotism, doesn’t mean that I haven’t given my heroines the respect due to them.”
As far as the making of ‘Umrao Jaan’ is concerned, JP says it was a piece of cake as compared to his earlier films ‘LOC’ and ‘Kshatriya’, which involved a lot of hardships for his unit members and himself. “However, ‘Umrao Jaan’ is more intense and the effort was in making sure that we get the performances and the music right,” he says.