KARACHI: Pakistani actress Sajal Aly has been roped in to play the lead role in an upcoming series based on the classical Urdu novel from 1899, 'Umrao Jaan Ada', the producer of the show confirmed on Monday, saying that the series would spotlight more original characters from the novel.
Penned by renowned author Mirza Hadi Ruswa, Umrao Jaan Ada has been hailed as one of the most renowned Urdu-language novels of all time. The novel chronicles the life of a courtesan named Umrao Jaan and has garnered critical acclaim for its portrayal of culture in the 19th-century century subcontinent.
The hit novel has been adapted numerous times over the decades. Pakistani director Hasan Tariq turned the novel into a film in 1972 while private news channel Geo Entertainment aired a TV adaptation of the same novel in 2003.
The most renowned adaptation of the novel came in 1981 when Indian director Muzaffar Ali helmed a movie on the famous character, starring popular Bollywood actress Rekha. Indian writer, director and producer Jyoti Prakash Dutta also directed an Umrao Jaan movie in 2006 starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
The upcoming Pakistani series will be packaged and produced by Abu Dhabi-based South Asian celebrity management agency, Action Consultancy.
“The makers of this project feel that Sajal [Aly] will do justice to the complex character of Umrao [Jan]," Hamid Hussain, producer and chief executive officer of Action Consultancy, told Arab News. "Our project has two primary female characters, one of which is Umrao Jaan.”
Hussain acknowledged that Ali's 1981 Umrao Jaan adaptation was the most "remembered" one. However, he said film adaptations always have always been "rushed" versions of original works of art.
"Unfortunately, film adaptations have to narrate the entire story in a short time and thus have always been rushed," Hussain said. “As an eight-part series, we have time to develop the different characters from the original novel.”
Aly, who has starred in a string of hit Pakistani drama serials and movie projects, confirmed she would play Umrao Jaan in the series adaptation.
“Can’t say anything about it right now but the news is right,” Aly confirmed to Arab News on Sunday.
Hussain said the names of other cast members would be announced at the "right time."
“The series adaptation relies heavily on the original Urdu version of the novel, unlike the film adaptations that had taken creative liberties to fit the story into a film narrative," he said.
"There is a lot in the novel that has never been shown in an audiovisual project.”
Pakistan's Dawn reported that the series was going to stream on a major online service but the producer declined to confirm which one, when asked by Arab News.