Pakistan’s Sajal Aly to Lead Series Adaptation of Classic Urdu Novel ‘Umrao Jaan Ada’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Pakistani star Sajal Aly, who is also one of the leads in Shekhar Kapur’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” will lead a series adaptation of Urdu-language novel “Umrao Jaan Ada.”

A classic of Urdu literature, the novel, written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa in 1899, is known for its portrayal of the culture and society of the 19th century Indian subcontinent, particularly the lives of courtesans.

The novel has had several film adaptations. In Pakistan, Hasan Tariq directed “Umrao Jaan Ada” (1972), with Rani in the title role. In India, Muzaffar Ali’s “Umrao Jaan” (1981) starred Rekha, while J.P. Dutta’s 2006 adaptation “Umrao Jaan” starred Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The novel also inspired two 1958 Indian films – S.M. Yusuf’s “Mehndi” and Nakhshab Jarchavi’s “Zindagi Ya Toofan.”

A Pakistani television adaptation was aired on Geo TV in 2003 and an Indian TV adaptation played on the Doordarshan Urdu channel in 2014. In 2019, Indian composers Salim-Sulaiman adapted Ali’s 1981 film as stage musical “Umrao Jaan Ada – The Musical.”

The latest adaptation starring Aly will be in the original Urdu language. Abu Dhabi-based South Asian celebrity management agency Action Consultancy is packaging and producing the project. Hamid Hussain and Muhammad Yaqoob are the producers.

Hussain told Variety that 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,” adding, “there is a lot in the novel that has never been shown in an audiovisual project.” The series will also feature a second strong female lead from the novel. The project is currently in development and is expected to head to a major streamer.

Action Consultancy manages leading stars from South Asia, including Humayun Saeed, who featured in “The Crown” and Ahad Raza Mir, who was in “Resident Evil.” The agency has recently expanded its portfolio and ventured into financing international content and packaging films and series.

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