In the film Umrao Jaan, the story is narrated by a woman who was kidnapped at a young age. Umrao Jaan is a “courtesan” genre film in Bollywood. This genre often portrays the life of a courtesan. In this film, A young girl (whose name is Amiran) is abducted by her father’s enemy and sold to a brothel where she learns to read, write, sing, and dance. She becomes an accomplished courtesan; in a song sequence which compromises time, we see her grow up while learning how to sing and dance. This song marks the beginning and training of her courtesan lifestyle. Towards the end of the film, we get another song sequence where Umrao Jaan performs her poetry, “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston.” I will analyze this song as the song speaks of her sense of confusion, loss, and ache for home. In this song, Umrao has returned to her hometown of Faizabad (from where she was abducted). She sings the song outside her biological home. Umrao as a courtesan, was a sex worker who was often ostracized and condemned from the society. Due to Umrao being known in society as a prostitute she is unable to find fulfillment in love. Through her songs and dance we see how she expresses how much she desires to live a life beyond her condemned situation.
Umrao in her life has gone through various periods of rejection and oppression in her life. Through her verses of poetry she express her predicament and feelings of loneliness. In the finale of the film, Umrao returns to Faizabad. She is asked to perform a song where in the town she is known as a stranger. As the song starts we see a flashback of Umrao when she was younger with her brother which, tells us this song will express how much it means for her to back in her old town and the sadness that she will convey. Umrao as she sings the first line saying, “What is this place, my friends” you see her eyes start to glisten with tears as she sings. She goes on to say “What location is this. Where, as far one can see, there’s dust and only dust. She is saying that she is alone like she is living in a desert, and the sadness and grief is overwhelming, that she cannot feel anything else other than sadness. Umrao when she examines her life only feels sadness, grief, and bewilderment, that she is not aware