Dressed in splendour and decked to the hilt, she moves with refined grace -- the courtesan is a breathtaking vision of beauty exuding song, dance and poetry.
And yet, do not be fooled by her dazzling demeanour, for she embodies discontent and wry irony.
On celluloid, she has been regularly painted as a picture of sacrifice, loneliness or simply a spicy bait to lure frontbenchers.
With J P Dutta's version of Umrao Jaan ready to hit the marquee on November 3, rediff.com takes the opportunity to showcase some of the most memorable courtesans in Hindi cinema.
Text: Sukanya Verma | Design: Uday Kuckian