Priyanka Chopra was JP Dutta’s first choice to play Umrao Jaan, not Aishwarya Rai: Here’s how the casting changed

When JP Dutta planned to make Umrao Jaan based on the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada, it was a big challenge to get a lead equal to Rekha from the Muzaffar Ali classic. Although today, we can consider Aishwarya a worthy choice to fit into Rekha’s shoes, back in the day, Aishwarya was not even Dutta’s first choice for the role of the protagonist.

So if we tell you that Priyanka Chopra, not Aishwarya, was supposed to romance Abhishek Bachchan in Dutta’s 2006 musical drama, will it surprise you?

Priyanka was a budding artist at that time, who was trying to establish her feet in Bollywood. Actually, he had also started preparing to get into the skin of Varmala. So did things change? “Her filled dates diary,” said JP Dutta to PTI in 2005.

Dutta revealed that despite Priyanka’s efforts to work out the calendar, the issue of dates could not be resolved. “I had reached a stage where I had to make a decision. I wanted to work with Priyanka. I saw him as ‘Umrao Jaan’. But we were at a dead end. “

Director JP Dutta and actor Aishwarya Rai came together for the first time in Umrao Jaan. (Photo: Express Archives)

And when Priyanka finally fell, Aishwarya’s arrival on the ship was by chance. It was around this time that Aishwarya was preparing for a film on Gayatri Devi’s life and Dutta met her in London. According to the director, she was keen to work in Umrao Jaan. “Which actress wouldn’t be there? She had no idea about my interactions with Priyanka at the time. When she showed interest, I saw Aish as another ideal choice for the role of Umrao Jaan. She has grace. I can see him as Umrao as Aish is also a skilled dancer.

The film Gayatri Devi was supposed to be a Walt Disney production, but Aishwarya Rai He could not be a part of it and Dutta used the dates he had for the former, for his own great work.

Umrao Jaan Stills Abhishek Bachchan Aishwarya Rai Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan did Umrao Jaan a year before their marriage. (Photo: Express Archives)

Priyanka was waiting for her dream role, but she refused to be upset. The global icon told PTI at the same time, “I had very good plans about playing the role. JP saab wanted 90 days of my dates so much that I could not give him. If it doesn’t work, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. When so much is happening, I can’t worry about what didn’t happen.”

Umrao Jaan turned out to be one of the most gorgeous JP Dutta outings and presented Aishwarya Rai’s grace, beauty and dancing skills like no other film. The film, which released in 2006, also starred Shabana Azmi, Suniel Shetty, Divya Dutta, Himani Shivpuri and Kulbhushan Kharbanda.


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