Not Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra Was JP Dutta’s First Choice To Play Umrao Jaan: Here’s How The Cast Changed


When JP Dutta planned to make Umrao Jaan, based on the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada, securing a lead that would be tied with Rekha from Muzaffar Ali’s classic was a huge challenge. While today we may consider Aishwarya a valid choice to step into Rekha’s shoes, at the time, Aishwarya was not even Dutta’s first choice for the role of protagonist Amiran.

So if we tell you that it’s not Aishwarya, but Priyanka Chopra who was supposed to romanticize Abhishek Bachchan in Dutta’s musical drama in 2006, will that leave you intrigued?

Priyanka was then a newcomer trying to find her place in Bollywood. In fact, she had also started the preparations to step into the shoes of the courtesan. So what changed things? “Her appointment diary stuffy,” said JP Dutta at the PTI in 2005.

Dutta revealed that despite attempts to work on Priyanka’s calendar, the date issue could not be resolved. “I had come to a point where I had to make a decision. I wanted to work with Priyanka. I saw her as ‘Umrao Jaan’. But we were at an impasse.

Director JP Dutta and Film actor Aishwarya Rai have teamed up for the first time with Umrao Jaan. (Photo: Express Archives)

And while Priyanka was ultimately abandoned, Aishwarya came aboard by chance. This was the time when Aishwarya was preparing a film about the life of Gayatri Devi, and Dutta met her in London. According to the director, she wanted to work at Umrao Jaan. “Which actress wouldn’t be? At this point, she had no idea my talks with Priyanka. When she showed interest, I saw Ash as another perfect choice for the role of Umrao Jaan. She has grace. I can see her as Umrao because Ash is also a competent dancer, ”Dutta told PTI.

The Gayatri Devi movie was supposed to be a Walt Disney production, but Aishwarya Rai couldn’t be a part of it and Dutta used the dates she had pledged for the first, for her own magnum opus.

umrao jaan stills abhishek bachchan aishwarya rai Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan made Umrao Jaan a year before they got married. (Photo: Express Archives)

Priyanka eagerly awaited the role of her dreams, but she refused to sulk. The global icon told PTI at the same time, “I had big plans on how to play the part. JP saab wanted 90 days of my dates in a row, which I couldn’t give him. If it didn’t work then I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I can’t ruminate on what went wrong when there was so much going on.

Umrao Jaan became one of JP Dutta’s most opulent releases and showcased Aishwarya Rai’s grace, beauty and dancing prowess like no other film. The film, released in 2006, also starred Shabana Azmi, Suniel Shetty, Divya Dutta, Himani Shivpuri, and Kulbhushan Kharbanda, among others.


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