Umrao Jaan is a Bollywood film, first made in 1981, then re-made in 2006. The first features Rekha (above), and the latter, Aishwarya Rai (below), as the famous and ill-fated Lucknowi courtesan, Umrao Jaan.
The story of Umrao Jaan is set in 1840, and begins with a little village girl named Amiran, who is kidnapped and sold to a brothel. Unlike the usual unfolding into abuse and torture, Amiran is well taken care of and schooled carefully and painstakingly in the arts. She grows up into a beautiful young woman, highly skilled in the seduction of, and entertainment to men.
Unlike any other prostitute, Amiran is a courtesan who is cultured in the fine arts and can hold her own in intellectual conversations, spout classical song and poetry, and hypnotise her audience with her every insinuation in dance. After her debut at a high society wedding, Amiran is renamed Umrao Jaan. From there, her life is an ensuing roller coaster ride of events fit for a riveting watch. Even if it is 3 hours long!
I have not seen the 1981 version, but I was completely bowled over by the new one with Aishwarya Rai. The set, the costumes, the choreography, the directing, and not to mention, the jewellery! Absolutely stunning, and totally breathtaking.
The movie was filmed in Jaipur, Land of the Mughals, famed for their artistry, poetry, and yes, courtesans. If you ask me, it's a must-see. If not for a great story, then for a peek into the ostentatious refinery and awe-inspiring sophistication of the Mughals.