“Pakeezah”, a magnum opus of poetic expressions on celluloid remains as pure as its apt title, even in these progressive years of the twenty first century. It still has the power to teleport you into those innocent years of the bygone era, wherein music, poetry, dance and love were cherished as the most valuable possessions of a living human being. Featuring the legendary tragedy queen, Meena Kumari, the movie is considered to be an important milestone in the history of Hindi Cinema. It enjoys a huge cult status due to it’s out of the world direction, poetic dialogues, realistic performances and pure immortal music.
Incidentally, as it was destined to be, the movie which got launched initially in 1958, took almost 14 long years to shine in the darkness of the theaters. And in this long span of time, it witnessed several break ups, separations, changes and additions, which are still unknown to many film lovers all over the world.
Here are some of those amazing facts and trivia related to the making and completion of this musical classic called “Pakeezah”.
It was planned together by Kamal Amrohi & Meena Kumari in 1958 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 also got introduced, Amrohi now wanted to shoot it in Cinemascope. So he brought the required lens from MGM on royalty basis and started shooting. However, after a while an error was detected in the shoot being done with the new lens. The matter was reported to MGM, who after studying the problem, didn’t collect their due royalties and also gifted that lens to Amrohi as an appreciation gesture.
The film was still being made, when in 1964, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari got separated due to their mutual differences. The project came to a halt for some time and then was resumed in 1968 with an intervention from Sunil Dutt & Nargis. After watching the rushes of the movie, both Sunil and Nargis persuaded Meena Kumari to support the project and revive it. Getting convinced, she started shooting again in 1968 and the project got a new life.
Ghulam Mohammed, 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).
When “Pakeezah” was resumed in 1968, 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 & untimely death. So he kept his music intact, but used fewer songs as planned to keep up with the fast changing times.
Later, the legendary composer Naushad was brought in to do the background score for the movie and he also added some fine ‘Thumris’ in it as required. After few years 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.
Pakeezah – Bobby Talks Cinema.com4. At the initial stages Ashok Kumar was to play the character of Salim in the movie. When the project got resumed, Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt were considered for the same role which eventually went to Raaj Kumar. And after Raaj accepting the role, it was modified from being a businessman’s character to a forest officer according to the strong built and impressive persona of Raaj Kumar.
As the shooting again started in 1968, Meena Kumari was suffering from alcoholism and was in serious critical condition under observation. But since, she was still Amrohi’s only choice, she agreed to complete the film, despite her severe ill health conditions.
Meena Kumari’s not so good health insisted that some of the dance sequences and scenes should be shot without her. So, Amrohi shot the entire song “Chalo Dildaar Chalo” without showing her face. See the song once again and you will notice it now. Also for the long shots in dance sequences of various other songs ‘Padma Khanna’ was used as a double.
Sadly, Meena Kumari died just two months after the film got released. Till then, the movie was having a lukewarm response at the box-office, but as the news of her death spread, the movie unintentionally got associated with it and started getting huge response. Later it was declared a hit and acquired a cult status in the history of Indian Cinema. It is also now remembered as Meena Kumari’s last film.
In 1972, Filmfare Awards raised many controversies for not giving due importance to “Pakeezah” and its unforgettable music.
Veteran actor Pran turned down his own Best Supporting Actor Award for Be-imaan (1972) in protest of the Best Music Award, not being given to “Pakeezah”. The prestigious award was given to “Be-imaan” for its commercially successful music. But Pran refused to take his own award as he felt “Pakeezah” and late ‘Ghulam Mohammed’ was the most deserving candidate for the honor than any other name in the nomination list.
The movie had a loving sequence with some great poetic lines written beautifully. Those particular words spoken by Raaj Kumar are still considered among the Top 10 most remembered dialogues ever in Indian Cinema. The lines are uttered in a train sequence, when Raaj Kumar meets Meena Kumari for the first time. And they go as :
“Aap ke paon dekhey, Bahut haseen hain,
Inhen zameen par mat utariyega, Mailey ho jayengey”
With so many interesting facts and trivia associated with the epic movie, it really feels great to have this famous masterpiece in our home library today. But I only wish that its DVD was also loaded with few extra features like a commentary by any key personality related to the movie or a feature on the making of this spectacular musical.