'Umrao Jaan has a beautiful soundtrack, and has been very dear to us right from our childhood.'
'We felt it had the perfect story to recreate for a stage musical.'
Text: Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com
Videos: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com
Does Umrao Jaan feature in your list of must watch movies of Indian cinema?
Did Rekha's beautiful and award-winning turn in the film give you goosebumps?
Have you just started humming In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke?
Then, it's time to cheer.
Composers Salim-Sulaiman bring the classic to the stage, making sure the film's musical gems sit pretty with their new creations in Umrao Jaan Ada.
What made Salim-Sulaiman pick this classic and bring it to theatre?
"It's a beautiful soundtrack, and has been very dear to us right from our childhood days," Salim says. "We felt it had the perfect story to recreate for a stage musical."
"We made the additional songs in such a way as if Khayyamsaab made them himself."
And how challenging was that?
"Extremely challenging!" he exclaims.
But that was just one of the many hurdles they faced.
"Creating Lucknow on stage," Salim lists. "Getting the cast right."
"Creating that darbar, that mehfil, the nawab's palace, the kotha..."
"Even live music is very difficult," says Sulaiman.
"Also, a singer is not always an actor and dancer. So we had to find someone who would put in effort to be a good singer and learn Kathak, emote well and make people cry," Sulaiman adds.
And that's how Pratibha Singh Baghel came aboard.
Pratibha has sung several songs like Daingad Daingad (Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania), Rajaji (Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi) and most recently, Jhunna Jhunna (Saandh Ki Aankh).
"I didn't believe I would play Umrao Jaan!" Pratibha says, her face radiating happiness.
Since Pratibha had been a part of Mughal-e-Azam, the other classic staged, she knew what it entailed.
But while she could sing like a dream, Pratibha did not know Kathak at all.
She tells us how she took on her challenges in this video.
Does she really sing like a dream? Let's find out in this video.
What is Salim-Sulaiman's favourite song from Umrao Jaan Ada?
While Sulaiman immediately picks the classic Dil Cheez, Salim picks Hum Rahein Ya Naa Rahein.
"That's the main love song for the story. This is a classic love story, which means the couple never comes together. All the classic love stories, be it Romeo and Juliet, Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, are stories where the lovers don't unite. That's what makes them classics," he says.
"Umrao Jaan Ada is a timeless love story where the love between Umrao Jaan and Nawab Sultan remains incomplete. To portray that through a song was very important," Salim adds.
Umrao Jaan Ada is Salim-Sulaiman's second stage production after 2013's Beyond Bollywood.
Did producing the musical post more challenges?
"Actually, producing it made it easier," Salim says. "We didn't have to convince any financier that we have to put in so much money. The costumes of Umrao Jaan, oh my God, you've got to see it! They are so beautiful and rich. And it all costs money."
"At no point did we need a financial controller to tell us no...actually, I wish we had one!" Salim says with a laugh. "We spent so much money! But we didn't want to cut corners. The budgets are always tight, but at the same time, we wanted to create a world class experience."
So how did they make it a world class experience? They tell us in this video.
Umrao Jaan Ada premieres on October 19 and 20 at the NCPA, Mumbai.