BRATTLEBORO — On Thursday, Aug. 18, from 7:30 p.m. onwards, Epsilon Spires in association with Vidhi's Bollywood Film Club will present the Bollywood film, Umrao Jaan (1981), the story of a 19th-century poet and courtesan.
The film will be introduced by Vidhi Salla, host of the international radio show, Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox. Also available for sale will be Indian handicrafts curated by Vidhi, and Indian snacks and refreshments.
Umrao Jaan is considered one of the most aesthetically superior Indian films that recreated Mughal court culture. “The elegant production design, stately costumes, and brilliant music and lyrics combine to create a masterpiece that remains unmatched to this day,” notes a news release.
Since its release in 1981, the film has not been shown on a big screen. After the successful screening of Sholay (1975) in November 2021, this will be the second Bollywood classic that Epsilon Spires and Vidhi Salla will be presenting on the big screen inside the sanctuary of Epsilon Spires.
Umrao Jaan is based on an Urdu-language novel, Umrao Jaan Ada, written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa in 1899 and widely regarded as the first Urdu novel.
It tells the story of a tawaif (courtesan), Umrao Jaan Ada. Umrao, born Amiran to a modest family in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, is kidnapped at the age of 12 by enemies of her father and sold to the head courtesan of a kotha (brothel) in Lucknow. There she is renamed Umrao and is trained in classical music and dance to charm wealthy clients from royal families. Umrao soon develops an interest in poetry and begins exploring the world of ghazal writing and composition.
Umrao Jaan was one of five films directed by Muzaffar Ali, a fashion designer, poet, painter, and social worker. The film won several accolades in India, including five National Awards, considered the highest in the country. Umrao Jaan has been lauded for its music, lyrics, art direction, screenplay, and most importantly, for actress Rekha's understated, elegant portrayal of Umrao.
Director Muzaffar Ali belongs to the royal family of Kotwara and was able to draw from his royal lineage to recreate historical courts of India. He even used a number of his family heirlooms to add authenticity to the visuals of the film.
The film will be screened inside the sanctuary at Epsilon Spires with a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are priced at $15 and can be booked via epsilonspires.org or purchased at the gate on the day of the event.