It is 1877 in Avadh, twenty years after India’s first ‘war’ of Independence. A handsome prince returns from England, falls in love with a ‘tawaaif’, and gets to know some deep dark secrets about his parentage. He also learns that the British are not-not all of them, at any rate – the truthful people he has come to believe; some of them can be conniving liars and savage murderers.
Muzaffar Ali’s period piece comes to us more than three decades after his ‘Umrao Jaan’, which was based on practically the same theme. You reach out reflexively for its memory when you see ‘Jaanisaar’: the older film is rightfully a classic, with Rekha acing her part as the gorgeous ‘naatch-girl’ and the superb Farooq Sheikh as the noble-man who loses his heart to her, the film a lyrical testament to its times; of this one, the less said the better.
Neither Imran Abbas nor Pernia Qureshi do justice to their meaty parts, except he is a tad better than her. A period film demands correct body language: both look modish but contemporary. The way they speak is also very here and now. The awful Englishman (Carl Wharton), representative of the Queen and cruel collector of ‘lagaan’, is theatrical, as are the rest of the supporting acts.
The only upside: the wonderful costumes. My tip: watch ‘Umrao Jaan’ instead, and after that pull out the even older ‘Gaman’, Ali’s other timeless triumph.
Cast: Imran Abbas, Pernia Qureshi, Dalip Tahil, Muzaffar Ali, Carl Wharton, Beena Kak
Director: Muzaffar Ali