Imagine the splendour of Mughal style architecture. Imagine jewelery which enthralls you with its various designs and gems. Imagine music which makes you weep. Imagine lyrics which touches unknown cords in your heart. Kamal Amrohi realised this beautiful imagination into a movie called Pakeezah and Meena Kumari made it a tribute to herself.
The year was 1972 but the movie had been in the making for 15 years. Because of allegedly troubled relationships between the two, the movie almost stalled but was salvaged by Sunil and Nargis Dutt. Apparently Meena was unwell but she determined to get the movie done and her passionate performance is what holds it together.
Whats it about
A common story portraying the plight of courtesans of that time. Meena is a courtesan and dies giving birth illegitimately. Years later her daughter is also a courtesan in the same brothel. Many suitors and many beautiful songs later she meets RaajKumar. There isn't a villian who comes in between but the purity of her love and character, which shows how a courtesan sometimes can be above society. It is this purity (Pakeezah), which is the essence of the movie.
What makes it different ?
The climax and the end. RaajKumar's role as the saviour and then lover. Meena getting stranded in a forest and the aftermath. Her reentry back in the brothel symbolised by the bird in the golden cage whose wings are cut. Her encounter with her illegitimate father changes the course of the story.
The music is evergreen. 'Chalte chalte yoonhi koi mil gaya tha...' (Lata Mangeshkar), ' Inhi logon ne,inhi logon ne...le liya dupatta mera' (Lata Mangeshkar)... Songs which have a meaning to what the courtesan goes through ,beautifully emoted and gracefully performed in dance by Meena. The lack of digital music makes you listen to every beat of the ghunghroo clearly. The music is by Naushad and Ghulam Mohammed The lyrics of Chalte chalte is by Kaifi Azmi and Inhi logon is by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
Raajkumar is known for many famous dialogues. 'Aapke pair bahut haseen hain,inhe zameen par na rakhiye,,yeh maile ho jaayenge' (Your feet is very pretty,don't keep them on the ground,they will become dirty'is one of them in this movie.
Th old world charm of Nawabi shaan and lifestyle is subtly shown. Money is thrown,literally, and there is no end to richness,luxury and shayari. Private daawat in a illuminated boat.There are fountains in which Meena wets her hair. Pathways lighted with lamps on which she strolls. Intricate silverware in which food is served.Golden cages,golden carpets and velvetty diwans takes you to visually appealing arsitocracy. and the language - pure Urdu as always. This was Bollywood's answer to Cleopatra !
I had heard that Meena was known as tragedy queen of Bollywood. This was the first movie of her's which I saw after some hazy memories of her movies watched in childhood. The first scene and her first dialgoue suited her title aptly. The entire deco of the set and movie for the earlier scenes is gloomy to suit Meena's mood and her pain of an abandoned courtesan. When Meena gets abandoned in the forest, it was as if jewelery is taken off a mannequin. Suddenly she is in plainclothes and looks commonplace and real in the bare, natural countryside.
Rare pic of on the sets of the movie. Kamal Amrohi directing the cast.
I shall end by repeating a very touching dialogue from the movie which mocks at the hypocrisy the world lives in.
'Phir meri awara laash is gulaabi makhbare mein laut aayi...haan har tawaif ek laash hai,main bhi.Hamara yeh bazaar ek kabristan hai,aisi auraton ka jinki ruhen mar jaati hai aur jism zinda rehte hain.Yeh hamare palakhaane aur khote hamare makhbare hain,jinme hum murda aurton ke zinda janaaze saja ke rak diye jaate hain.Hamari kabren baaki nahi jaati ,khuli chod di jaati hain..Main aisi khuli huyi kabr ki besabar laash hoon...jise baar baar zindagi vardala kar bhaga le jaati hai.'
Translated - (My wandering dead body has come back to this rose colour grave called brothel. Every courtesan is a dead body,me too. Our business is a graveyard of those women whose spirit is dead but body is alive. These buildings and brothel are our graves where the funeral prayers for us dead women is decorated and kept. Our bodies do not die out but are helplessly kept out. I am also a helpless dead body like this which is mockingly run down everytime by life.)