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The Courtesans of Bombay / Street Musician of Bombay [The Merchant Ivory Collection] (1983)

Saeed Jaffrey , Zohra Segal , Richard Robbins , Ismail Merchant  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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The Courtesans of Bombay / Street Musician of Bombay [The Merchant Ivory Collection] + Bombay Talkie - The Merchant Ivory Collection
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Product Details

  • Actors: Saeed Jaffrey, Zohra Segal, Kareem Samar, Richard Robbins
  • Directors: Richard Robbins, Ismail Merchant
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Mono, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Home Vision Entertainment (Merchant Ivory)
  • DVD Release Date: April 19, 2005
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007PAMHE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,979 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Courtesans of Bombay / Street Musician of Bombay [The Merchant Ivory Collection]" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Also includes The Street Musicians of Bombay, 1994, 52 minutes

Editorial Reviews

Intriguing, colorful, and revealing, The Courtesans of Bombay is Merchant Ivory’s docu-drama about Pavan Pool, the enclosed area where Bombay’s singing and dancing courtesans ply their trade. It presents a portrait of the unique location, both exotic and tawdry: crammed tenements housing thousands of men playing up to the camera as they seek out forbidden pleasures—and the courtesans themselves, who appear more as entertainers than sex-workers. Neither sensationalist nor prurient, the film is about a tradition with a special place in Indian society: the entertainment of paying customers—always men—by songstresses and dancers who perform in the classical Hindustani styles of the ancient "nautch" girls, India’s version of the Japanese geisha.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BOMBAY (MUMBAI) BEFORE AIDS April 8, 2006
My copy of "The Courtesans of Bombay" also included a short film - about 55 minutes - entitled "The Musicians of Bombay" and both were fascinating for those of us who have been to Bombay and India in general. They are both quite exquisitely written and directed and really catch the flavour and sights and smells of Bombay.

These films were made before the epidemic of AIDS and it is sad, especially in "The Courtesans of Bombay" to see these courtesans/prostitutes plying their trade unaware of the future horrors that will await them.

There is also an interesting section in "Courtesans" where eunuchs attend and entertain at a celebration of a new birth to an upper middle-class family and one of the more vociferous and outspoken of the ladies (?) explains how it is a "God-given" privilege to choose to become a eunuch and undergo that drastic and sometims deadly operation. "She" seems to protests too much but the whole group of them seem to be happy and appear to be somewhat affluent in their attire and gold jewellery.

"The Musicians of Bombay" is a welcome addition to this DVD and for students of Indian music - that is, street musicians - the variety of instruments and languages and vocal traditions is truly fascinating. It begins with a fantastic shot of the "Gateway to India" monumental monument as seen from an hotel room and this same monument to the British Raj was very effectively used in David Lean's "A Passage to India" when the new Vice-Roy arrives in all his splendour and arrogance.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Typical Merchant Ivory October 30, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
First of all, I approached `Courtesans of Bombay' thinking that it was a fictional drama. I was looking forward to a typically sensitive Merchant Ivory treatment of the subject of prostitution.
Actually, `Courtesans' is a straight documentary film. It does, however, work well as such. The film is narrated by three residents of Pavanpul, who could very well be actors. They provide the back-up for the succession of images that show the typical events of the courtesans' lives. The courtesans themselves are quite exotic and intriguing. The real treat of the film is the courtesans' dancing, particulary the scenes of them with their dance instructors.
I still would have preferred a drama, as a drama could have achieved much more with the subject matter than a factual documentary. However, the film does draw you in and keep you interested throughout.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars informative, entertaining and educational January 9, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
An excellent film portrait of the area of Bombay known as Pavanpul
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