ⓘ Pakeezah


ⓘ Pakeezah

Pakeezah is a 1972 Indian film, written and directed by Kamal Amrohi, who was known for his perfectionism. The music is by Ghulam Mohammed and Naushad Ali. The film starred Meena Kumari, Raaj Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nadira, D.K. Sapru and Veena. Meena Kumaris performance as a golden-hearted Lucknow nautch-girl drew major praise. However, this was to be Meena Kumaris last performance.

Kamal Amrohis PR man said: "Shah Jahan made Taj Mahal for his wife, Kamal Sahab wanted to do the same with Pakeezah." The concept, Kamal Amrohi says was irretrievably fixed with his love for his wife Meena Kumari. According to Kamal Amrohi, he hoped to create a film which would be worthy of her as an actress, and worthy of the love he felt for her as a woman. Meena Kumari regarded the film as Kamal Amrohis tribute to her.

The film tells the story set in Muslim Lucknow at the turn of the century, its central character is a Lucknowi nautch-girl, for her to fall in love was forbidden, it was a sin she was told, a nautch-girl is born to delight others such is her destiny and yet her restless soul could not suppress her surging desire – To Love and Be Loved. It was ostensibly perhaps loosely based on Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumaris own love story.

From its mahurat on 16 July 1956 to its release on 4 February 1972, Pakeezah took 16 years to reach the silver screen. Pakeezah released on 3 February 1972, with a grand premiere at Maratha Mandir theatre in central Mumbai and was released for the audience the following day. Meena Kumari attended the last premiere of her life along with Kamal Amrohi.

Already battling cirrhosis of the liver, Meena Kumari was ill throughout the filming and died only a few weeks after it was finally released. It was Meena Kumaris last great performance and one that solidified her reputation as a legendary actress. An Indian critic has said Pakeezah was "Poetry, fantasy and nostalgia rolled into one on an epic scale".


1. Plot

Set in the Muslim Quarter of Lucknow at the turn of the century, the movie centers on the mental plight of a tawaif courtesan and dancer and their longing to be loved, accepted and respected by society.

In the eponymous role, Nargis Meena Kumari, finds love and dreams of marrying the man she loves, Shahabuddin Ashok Kumar. However, the patriarch of Shahabuddins family, Hakim Saab D.K. Sapru rejects this alliance, as he finds it unacceptable to welcome a tawaif in his respected family. Dejected, Nargis flees to a nearby cemetery and lives there, ultimately giving birth to a daughter before passing away. On her deathbed, she writes Shahabuddin a letter asking him to come for his newborn daughter. Nargis sister, Nawabjaan Veena, a brothel madam, finds the girl first and brings her back to the kotha. When Nargis belongings are sold several years later, a book lover finds the letter in her book and posts it. Shahabuddin comes to collect his now adult daughter, Sahibjaan also played by Meena Kumari. But Nawabjaan takes her niece and flees by train to another town.

While traveling by train, a dashing young man enters Sahibjaans compartment by happenstance. He is struck by her beauty and leaves her a note with the famous lines: "Aapke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hain. Inhein zameen par mat utariyega. maile ho jaayenge defies all conventions and arrives at Sahibjaans kotha, thus fulfilling her wishes and leading to a happy, emotion-charged ending.


2. Cast

  • D.K. Sapru - Hakim Saab
  • Geeta Kapoor - Naazuk, Salims cousin
  • Meena Kumari - Nargis / Sahibjaan Pakeezah
  • Nadira - Madame Gauhar Jaan
  • Raaj Kumar - Salim Ahmed Khan
  • Prakash Gill - Hashim Khan, guy on the horse
  • Veena - Nawabjaan
  • Kamal Kapoor - Nawab Zafar Ali Khan
  • Ashok Kumar - Shahabuddin

3. Crew

  • Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kaif Bhopali, Kamal Amrohi
  • Costume Design: Meena Kumari
  • Director Of Photography: Josef Wirsching
  • Art Direction: N.B. Kulkarni
  • Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Rafi, Vani Jairam, Parveen Sultana, Rajkumari, Shobha Gurtu
  • Music: Ghulam Mohammed, Naushad Ali Background Score, Title Music
  • Production Manager:
  • Set Design: Kamal Amrohi
  • Screenplay: Kamal Amrohi

4.1. Production Concept

In 1955, Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi were in South India and here Kamal Amrohi began outlining the plot of his next film with his wife Meena Kumari and decided that he would call it Pakeezah the name has a fascinating history too. It was changed many times due to superstitious reasons, but finally the original stayed. After the failure of Daera in 1953, Pakeezah as an idea was roaming Amrohis mind. A concept, Kamal Amrohi says was irretrievably fixed with his love for his wife Meena Kumari, he hoped to create a film which would be worthy of her as an actress, and worthy of the love he felt for her as a woman. Kamal Amrohi declared that for every line he wrote he had Meena in mind. He wished to present her on the screen as no one had before: beautiful, sad, sanguine, dejected, calculating, sexy - his ambition was to capture as many dimensions of her as he knew of. Kamal Amrohis son Tajdar Amrohi, raised by Meena Kumari, said: "What you see in Pakeezah is exactly how our home looked like -- the same windows, chandeliers, arches, and curtains." The grandfathers character was taken from Amrohis father. "The dining table sequence in which Raaj Kumar says, Afsos, log doodh se bhi jal jaate hai, was inspired by everyday domestic scenes at our home. "When an elder enters the room, the womenfolk put on their veil. This is what baba showed in Pakeezah and thats how women at our home behaved." says Tajdar, "And his romance with my chhoti ammi was very dignified. Despite being separated, they felt for each other. But they never divorced as rumors go. They loved each other and chhoti ammi respected my father and never allowed anyone to say anything against him."

In 1964, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari separated due to their mutual differences, but the separation never led to formal divorce. The project came to a halt. In moments of desperation, Kamal thought of a substitute for Meena Kumari. He even searched for a replacement actress, but each time he came back to where he had started. The one and only woman who could play Sahibjaan was Meena Kumari.

According to Vinod Mehta, Meena Kumari had a special niche for Pakeezah. There is, however, one sentence worth considering: the surging desire to love and be loved. And it was this line in which Meena saw a reflection of her life. Kamal Amrohi himself pronounced, Pakeezah is Meena Kumari.


4.2. Production Development

It was planned together by Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari in 1956 and at first, was launched as a black & white venture. Later, with color technology coming in, Kamal Amrohi started it all again in the new color format. But soon after that, when Cinemascope was introduced, Amrohi decided to shoot the film in Cinemascope. So he bought the required lens from MGM on a royalty basis and started shooting. However, after a while, an error was detected in the shooting done with the new lens. The problem was reported to MGM, who after studying the problem, decided not to collect their due royalties and also gifted the lens to Amrohi as a gesture of appreciation. The film was still being made when in 1964 Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari separated due to mutual differences. The project came to a halt for some time when it was more than halfway complete.

Kamal Amrohi wrote a letter to his estranged wife on 24 August 1968.

"Only Pakeezah s completion remain unsettled. You have made a condition that unless I give you a divorce you will not complete Pakeezah. Even this knot can be untied. I will free you from your marital ties. After this, if you wish to complete your Pakeezah. I would be the most happy to do so. This is my request, that Pakeezah on which the fortune of many people depends, and which had the good wishes of so many people should not be left uncompleted if possible. You have better means. You have box-office appeal, and most of all Pakeezah needs you personally. Pakeezah that is like a sinking ship will reach a shore under your care."

Meena Kumari wrote to her husband in early 1969.

"In regard to my working in Pakeezah, I have always been willing and clamouring to work. Pakeezah is my life dream and it will be my greatest pleasure to see it completed. As for my remuneration, I am glad you have given me an opportunity to prove my regards and respect for you. I shall accept only ONE GUINEA as a token of goodwill for my entire work in Pakeezah."

As the shooting resumed in 1969, Meena Kumari was suffering from liver cirrhosis and was in critical condition. But since Kumari was still Amrohis only choice, she agreed to complete the film, despite her severe ill health. On 16 March 1969, five years and twelve days after Kumari left her husband, gravely ill, Kumari again reported for work on Pakeezah. Kamal Amrohi organized a great reception. He gave his wife a peda sweet as a peace offering, and made a documentary film on her arrival at the studio. Meena Kumari was determined to complete the film and, well aware of the limited time left for her to live, went out of her way to complete it at the earliest. Her condition became so bad that during the filming of the last song "Teer-e Nazar," she collapsed. A body double, Padma Khanna, was used who was personally trained by her for the scene. Throughout the song, Padma Khannas face remained veiled and the veil was lifted at instances to show Meena Kumaris face.


4.3. Production Casting

In 1956, at the initial stages the following had been signed: Josef Wirsching as photographer, Ghulam Mohammed as music director, Ashok Kumar as the hero, Meena Kumari as the heroine, and a handful of Urdu writers as lyricists Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaif Bhopali including Kamal Amrohi. When the project got resumed in 1969, Amrohi was confronted with another difficulty; Ashok Kumar was getting no younger. He had to find a younger leading man for his film. Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Sunil Dutt were considered for the same role which eventually went to Raaj Kumar. Raaj Kumar and Kamal Amrohi had worked previously together in Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi, and according to Kamal Amrohi, the one thing that he liked about Raaj Kumar was his voice. Not only did Raaj Kumar knew literate Hindustani, but he also spoke it well and deep. And after finalizing Raaj Kumar, the role was modified from being a businessmans character to a forest officer according to the strong built and impressive persona of Raaj Kumar. During the making of the film, composer Ghulam Mohammed and cinematographer Josef Wirsching died, leaving director Kamal Amrohi at a loss. Eventually, though, composer Naushad was brought in to compose the background score; and after Wirschings death, over a dozen of Bombays top cinematographers stepped in as/when they had a break from their other assignments, and they maintained an even look.


4.4. Production Design

A one-and-a-half-crore rupee film, CinemaScope, Eastmancolor, fourteen years in the making, Kamal Amrohi sketched all the set designs and camera movements, and personally selected every costume, right down to the bangles worn by the minor characters. Tajdar Amrohi said the haveli in Pakeezah is inspired by their family haveli back home in the city of Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, Kamal Amrohi recreated the exact replica in Mumbai. Most of the film was shot at Filmistan Studios, where the magnificent sets were mounted. The chandeliers were imported from Belgium and bills of the carpets alone ran into lakhs. Vinod Mehta said: Kamal Amrohi saw in Pakeezah an epic, a larger-than-life film with hundreds of extras, with expensive and exotic sets, with superhuman effort made to preserve period flavor; and all this he wished to do with the collected professional proficiency he had acquired in nearly two decades. This was no do-it-yourself cinema; instead, it was visioned as the ultimate in spectacle and pageantry."


4.5. Production Music

When Pakeezah was resumed in 1969, many exhibitors suggested Kamal Amrohi to change the music according to the then famous trend and style. To this, Amrohi said that he would have readily done this if only Ghulam Mohammed was still breathing alive. But, now he cannot betray a man, who gave him such melodious songs, after his unexpected and untimely death. So he kept his music intact, but used fewer songs as planned to keep up with the fast changing times. Ghulam, the music director of Pakeezah, sadly could not be alive to see the success of his film. It is said that he did not get his due in the Hindi Film Industry in spite of his brilliant work in films like Mirza Ghalib 1954 and Shama 1961. The composer Naushad was brought in to do the background score for the movie and he also added some fine Thumris in it as required. In January 1977, HMV now SAREGAMA released all the remaining 9 unreleased tracks in a different LP titled PAKEEZAH – RANG BARANG, about which many are still not aware of.


5. Premiere

On 3 February 1972, in the Arabian Sea a Pakeezah Boat was sailing and in Maratha Mandir the premiere was scheduled. The film released with a grand premiere at Maratha Mandir theatre in central Mumbai and the prints being carried on a decked-up palanquin. Meena Kumari arrived to attend the last premiere of her life. Kumari let Raaj Kumar, for the benefit of the press, kiss her hand and went in to see the film. Meena Kumari was seated next to Kamal Amrohi during the premiere. When Mohammed Zahur Khayyam complimented Meena Kumari with "shahkar ban gaya" its priceless, she was in tears. After watching the film, Meena Kumari told a friend that she was convinced that her husband Kamal Amrohi was the finest film-maker in India. Kumari regarded the film as Kamal Amrohis tribute to her.

The film finally released for the general masses the following day. An idea which once lingered in its creators mind for almost 16 years finally reached the silver screen on 4 February 1972. Unfortunately, it received a lukewarm response from the critics. Although the film received a warm reception from the audience, it was Meena Kumaris untimely death on 31 March 1972 which acted as an ultimate push and made it one of the top grossers of that year. Pakeezah was house-full for 33 weeks and even celebrated its silver jubilee. Meena Kumaris performance as a golden-hearted Lucknow nautch girl drew major praise and the film is since then considered a classic and has a status much similar to K. Asifs 1960 magnum opus, Mughal-E-Azam.,


6. Legacy

Pakeezah is Indias first color film in Cinemascope and Meena Kumaris most awaited film and has since acquired major cult status as well. Tajdar Amrohi shares: "When the shooting of Pakeezah resumed in 1969, the first song shot was "Mausam Hai Ashiqana" with this song Meena Kumari set a new fashion trend of girls wearing Lungi.

Indian Film Critic Bhavana Soumaya says Pakeezah is just like poetry on celluloid. I cannot imagine anybody else in this movie except Meena Kumari." Pakeezah s music is cited as one of the finest classical album in the history of Hindi cinema and was one of the best-selling Bollywood albums of the 1970s.

Pakeezah was the inaugural film telecast by Doordarshan, Indias state-owned television station, when it began broadcasting from Amritsar in Punjab in the early 70s. It was especially beamed towards Lahore nearby, in Pakistan. Thousands flocked at Lahore, from as far as Karachi, hundreds of miles away, to see Pakeezah. It was a flood. The crowds stampeded the streets of Lahore to get to the television screens placed at strategic points on virtually every street corner.

Vinod Mehta the biographer of Meena Kumari shared an incident which occurred during the last days of the films shooting: "On outdoor shooting, Kamal Amrohis unit traveled in two cars near a place called Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh. The cars ran out of petrol, and for miles around there was nothing except a long, deserted, straight road. It was discovered that a bus passed on this route every morning from which fuel could be purchased. Kamal Amrohi decided to spend the night in the desert and ordered his unit roll up the windows of the cars. A little after midnight the occupants of the vehicles were surrounded by a dozen armed men. The men knocked on the closed windows and forced their way in. When the armed gang leader learned that one of the persons in the car was Meena Kumari, his attitude completely changed. He turned out to be a Meena Kumari fan and welcomed his guests in true fan tradition. He organized music, dancing, and food. He even provided a place to sleep. He instructed his juniors the next morning to fetch petrol for the unit. From Meena Kumari, he wanted a special favor. He sharpened his knife and took it to her. Please autograph my hand with this, he requested. Meena was not new to signing autographs but she had never attempted anything as ambitious as a knife. Nervously, she wrote her name on this mans hand. He said he was grateful for this favor. Once the unit left, they found at the next town that they had spent the night in the camp of Madhya Pradeshs renowned and dangerous dacoit - Amrit Lal."

Dwyer and Patel have argued that the Pakeezah courtesan genre is responsible for "some of the most extravagant and beautiful sets and costumes in the history of the Hindi film" – or the pooling of a golden, artificial light that paints his actress as she returns to the Pink Palace. Hence, if Pakeezahs narrative structure which is also to say its use of time derives from the codes and conventions of Bollywood filmmaking, as does nominally its emphasis on art design as a source of spectatorial pleasure, Amrohis spatial articulations and handling of light underscore his individualized sensibility. In this respect, Pakeezah does more justify the popular Indian cinema; it manifests the artistic sensibility of a truly rare. connoisseur. Meena Kumari delivers a phenomenal performance as the leading female protagonist, especially given the circumstances, as she was terminally ill when filming resumed. It is perhaps one of her greatest works along with Baiju Bawra 1952, Parineeta 1953 and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam 1962. These are all films which have helped to consolidate her status as the tragedienne of Indian cinema. The film is also known as one of the historical films which display the sophistication and elegance of Muslim culture in India. Books and documentaries made about the film include Meghnad Desais Pakeezah: An Ode to a Bygone World. Filmmaker/critic Peter Wollen, named Pakeezah as one of the ten best movies ever made in the 1992 "Sight and Sound" poll. Pakeezah ranks on the lists of top Indian films, including the 2002 British Film Institute poll of Top 10 Indian Films.

  • Bibi Aur Ghulam, Jewel Thief, Chaudhvin ka Chand Lachhu Maharaj Mahal, Pakeezah Mughal - e - Azam Chiman Seth Mother India Krishna Kumar Awaara, Madhosh
  • Manzil 1973 Ek Naav Kinare Do 1973 Jeet 1972 Parivartan 1972 Wafaa 1972 Pakeezah 1972 Shahar Se Door 1972 Dost Aur Dushman 1971 Hameed, Saeed. IQBAL MIRCHI:
  • has sung for Bollywood movies such as Gadar, Kudrat, Do Boond Pani, and Pakeezah and several other Assamese films. Recently, she sang the theme song of
  • recorded earlier than this. The song later gained popularity when used in Pakeezah 1972, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and with lyrics credited to Majrooh Sultanpuri
  • Taylor Francis. p. 1994. ISBN 978 - 1 - 135 - 94325 - 7. Meghnad Desai 2013 PAKEEZAH HarperCollins Publishers India. pp. 44 ISBN 978 - 93 - 5116 - 023 - 6. Anil
  • ISBN 978 - 0 - 226 - 30427 - 4. Retrieved 8 September 2015. Meghnad Desai 13 December 2013 PAKEEZAH HarperCollins Publishers India. pp. 35 ISBN 978 - 93 - 5116 - 023 - 6. Retrieved
  • Issue 17, 19 August 1 September 2000 Ziya Us Salam, Heart - warming moments on a Pakeezah night The Hindu - Metro Plus Dehi, Thursday, 10 July 2003

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