#59 #Scriptors100BestFilms #Pakeezah

“हाँ, फिर मेरी ये आवारा लाश, अपने इस गुलाबी मकबरे में दफन हो जाने के लिए लौट आई,हर तवायफ़ एक लाश है, मैं भी एक लाश हूँ और तू भी,हमारा ये बाज़ार है एक कब्रस्तान  है ऐसी औरतों का जिनकी रूहें मर जाती हैं और  जिस्म जिंदा रहते हैं, ये हमारे बलार्खाने कोठे हमारे मकबरे हैं, जिनमें हम मुर्दा औरतों के जिंदा जनाज़े सजा कर रख दिए जाते हैं,हमारी कब्रें पाटी नहीं जातीं यूँ ही खुली छोड़ दी जाती हैं, मैं ऐसी ही एक कब्र की बेसब्र लाश हूँ “

– साहिबजान (पाकीज़ा)
Haan ! Phir meri ye awaara laash, apne is gulaabi maqbarey mein dafn ho jaane ke liye laut aayi, 
Har tawaif ek laash hai, main bhi ek laash hoon aur tu bhi. Hamaara ye bazaar ek kabrastaan hai, aisi aurton ka jinki roohein mar jaati hain aur jism zinda reh jaate hain.
Ye hamaare balarkhane kothe humaare maqbarey hain jinmein hum murda aurton ke zinda janaaze sajaa kar rakh diye jaate hain.
Humaari kabrein paati nahin jaatin, yun hi khuli chhod di jaati hain, main aisi hi kabr ki besabr laash hoon.
-Saahibjaan (Pakeezah)
The last movie of Meena Kumari completed another year of its release on 4th February this year. Though Meena Kumari has many exceptional films to her credit, Pakeezah embodied her body and soul is indeed her Swan’s song.
Pakeezah is an exploration of what it meant to be a “tawaif” (a dancer-singer courtesan) in the aristocratic milieus of traditional India. But Kamal Amrohi has turned his film into something more than just another high-flying courtesan film. We feel he has something to redeem that may be social on the surface, but is personal all the way down. Its story of Kamaal Amrohi’s and Meena Kumari’s love for art and Cinema.  Inspite of a bitter break-up the couple came together so that they could render the piece of art and give it to the lovers of Cinema.Pakeezah is a movie that has to be deciphered at every frame, every scene and every moment. Pakeezah is replete with symbols. There is, for instance, the oft-used symbol (not just in Hindi cinema, but elsewhere too, including in Ray’s Charulata) of the bird in a cage. In this instance, a golden cage that the nawab lusting for Sahibjaan sends to her as a present. (Interestingly, the other present he sends along with the bird can also be construed as symbolic: it’s a carpet, indicating perhaps that this is what he wants Sahibjaan to dance on). For him, his gifts say, Sahibjaan is just a thing of a pleasure, a bird bound in a golden cage, or a pretty little thing pirouetting on his gold-embroidered carpet.The caged bird symbol is given an interesting twist (and a contrast) in a scene where Sahibjaan sits, bending over a pool in her haveli, staring at her reflection. On her shoulder dangles an ornament she’s had especially made: a tiny, cage-like golden locket that hangs from a golden chain hooked into her tresses. In it, kept very safely and always close to her, is the precious note from Salim. The frame is a telling one: Sahibjaan’s own, cherished ‘cage’ in which she imprisons what she values the most; and, above her, the nawab’s cage, with its resident bird.(Hardly surprising, then, that this scene ends with Sahibjaan reaching up, taking down the cage, and setting the bird free).While on the topic of symbols in Pakeezah, it’s worth noting that the railway station sign seen through the window when Sahibjaan wakes to find Salim’s note beside her feet is Suhagpur—a definite indication that Sahibjaan has, even if she wasn’t aware of it at the time, met the man who will someday be her suhaag. Trains themselves form an important motif throughout the film (a symbol of Sahibjaan’s turbulent journey through life?) A train is where Sahibjaan’s and Salim’s paths first cross, and ever after, trains continue to haunt Sahibjaan. A train goes past her haveli, hooting loudly into the night at 3 AM daily, adding its own note to Sahibjaan’s song (which is itself an ode to that fateful night journey). A train even becomes the means of bringing Sahibjaan and Salim together later in the film, after they have been separated.
Written by Kamal Amrohi, the dialogues of Pakeezah stand out for the way in which, while they are very much part of the ‘Muslim social’ milieu, they aren’t extremely Persianised, making them easy to understand even for those whose Urdu may not be of the highest order.The most famous dialogue (even though it’s not really spoken, except in the background) is, of course, that immortal “Aapke paaon dekhe. Bahut haseen hain. Inhein zameen par mat utariyega. Maile ho jaayenge.” My personal favourite, though, is a relatively undramatic, easily missed, but very poignant little dialogue in a scene where Sahibjaan has gone to visit her friend at a kotha in the city. Sahibjaan goes out onto the balcony, and sees a tawaif standing at a window opposite—she knows Sahibjaan too,she asks her about her wellbeing, this courtesan is envious of Sahibjaan’s fame and success, replies ‘Subah hoti hai, shaam hoti hai…Umr yun hi tamaam hoti hai’ They exchange greetings; the other woman tells Sahibjaan that she has been summoned for a mujra (and, obviously, more). Give me your fate for one night, the woman says teasingly to Sahibjaan. “Haan, haan,” Sahibjaan says. “Zuroor le jaana. Phir chaahe waapas bhi na karna”. Her colleagues and friends may envy her; Sahibjaan, however, knows all too well that this fate of hers is not one to be jealous of.
It seldom happens that music of the movie becomes a bigger legend than the movie itself. It seldom happens that assistant of a legendary music director does the main score and background score is gracefully accepted by the master. It seldom happens that a Filmfare award is rejected because the rival movie did not get the deserved award. All this happened with Pakeezah. Naushad’s assistant Ghulam Muhammad did the main score of Pakeezah, where Naushad did the background score that comprised of over a dozen immortal thumris and ghazals that haunt the backdrops of Kotha’s of Sahibjaan in Pakeezah. HMV released some of these songs in a limited edition album called Pakeezah- Rang Barang later. Did you know that Pakeezah, one of the most haunting musicals of Bollywood did not win at Filmfares and lost the award to  ‘Beimaan’. Pran who won the award for Best Supporting Actor, the very same year for Beimaan refused to take his trophy to voice his displeasure and anger of Pakeezah not winning. May it be Chalte Chalte or Thade Rahiyo by Lata from the main score or Najariya ki Maari or Kaun Gali by goddess of Vocals Rajkumari Ji, every song is a pure gem. Sadly Not all the songs and ghazals are separately available for us to listen, as they are lost in time, but every time we watch Pakeezah we get a glimpse of magic created via melodies of Pakeezah.
Pakeezah is a stylized, larger than life mythicization of the familiar tale of the Courtesan with the heart of gold. In the film Amrohi turns to the milieu and culture he is a product of – Uttar Pradesh’s feudal elite, its life of ease and elegance, of romantic love, poetry and mujras. Its decadence is not without a touch of class and has sometimes resulted in much creative upsurge. Pakeezah inherits that legacy. There is grandeur in Amrohi’s filmmaking – an epic magnitude of treatment. The evocative songs and the background music create the right period mood and Amrohi’s eye for details brings great depth to the lavish sets. The dances are extremely well choreographed, cleverly hiding Meena Kumari’s inability to dance (Just watch her walk and move ever so gracefully in the song Chalte Chalte even as two other nautch girls dance in the background). And the picturisation of the song Chalo Dildar Chalo across the wide expanse of sea and sky to the boat on which the lovers ride is romanticism at its best. In fact, the film’s main merit in spite of its flaws, its at times disjointed flow, its stock situations and an over stretched plot, lies in its delirious romanticism. Though the suffering courtesan occupies central stage, she is defined by male values and shaped by patriarchal parameters with the courtesan having to lead a life of emotional repression. The caged bird whose feathers are trimmed and the torn kite hanging in her courtyard operate as visual symbols for her imprisonment and curtailment of desire. The train or the patriarchal haveli are well-knit constructs in the fabric of the film. In fact, the whistle of the train is used like a leitmotif throughout the film.
Pakeezah was a life long dream of Director Kamaal Amrohi who also directed classics like Mahal, Daera and Razia Sultaan.He conceptualised Pakeezah while he was writing Mughal E Azam. Both had somewhat similar settings, stories of courtesans in search of love and acceptance of love. He started making Pakeezah with his wife Meena Kumari in 1956. But when he saw beauty of colored cinema in two meagre reels of Mughal E Azam, he decided to shelve the B/w version and took a colored lense on royalty basis from MGM. Technically, a sound cinema personal, he discovered a focal error in the MGM lenses. He wrote back to MGM and when his observation was found true, MGM not only corrected the focal error but also gifted him a CinemaScope lense, which Amrohi used to shoot both Pakeezah and Razia Sultan.He was a thorough professional, he never offered Pakeezah to anyone else after Meena walked out of it around 1964. ‘Written for her, it will always be her’, he said. Later Meena came back to complete the film inspite of the bitter divorce that had almost shelved the film for 5 years. Kamaal was one director who dismantled the set just because it was leaning 1/2 a degree here and there. Through 16 years of making of Pakeezah in thick and thin he never wavered. This passion is hard to find and termed as madness these days. But as they say Madness is needed to make a masterpiece.
Film took years to make in hardest of circumstances, anyone could have given up but Amrohi didnt, For all its artificiality, the film’s reconstruction process belongs to real art: that’s why we don’t laugh at it. That’s why we feel drawn towards it. There is a truth which belongs to reality, but there is another truth which is art’s truth. The artist’s right is to transmute reality into beauty, and to make us dream, even if this is escapist. For me, this operation has always been the special attraction of Bollywood. So much so that I wonder whether what I say of art, I may not say also of womanhood and love. Do not all men dream of this paradox, a chaste prostitute? Isn’t there a truth there too? Men dislike being deceived (knowingly), but they don’t necessarily mind deceiving, and taking advantage of a woman who gives herself to them completely, and I wonder whether they aren’t unconsciously more attracted by a woman who has known many men, than none. If this is the case, then it would contribute to explain Pakeezah’s charm: perhaps the film satisfies both women’s need for power and freedom, and men’s fascination for such power and freedom, provided what is happening to both possesses the purity of real love, and the eternity of beauty.
Yohaann Bhaargava
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Yohaann Bhaargava

Head - Business Development at SCRIPTORS
Movie Buff. Yohaann is a film critic with Jagran Prakashan Limited. He has been associated with Print and TV media as a branding professional. Presently he is a screenwriter trying to bring in some good scripts up for Bollywood. At Scriptors he works as a writer and handles business development.
Yohaann Bhaargava
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