आपके पाँव देखे ….बहुत हसीन हैं …इन्हें ज़मीन पर मत रखियेगा …मैले हो जाएँगे.
A young forest officer sees the feet of an unknown girl in a train compartment and looses his heart on her. Mesmerized by the beauty of the feet only, and not the face or anything else, he writes the above mentioned line on a chit and leaves the chit to be read by the girl when she wakes up.
A prelude a great love story?
No….its Pakeezah. Its not a love story. The Officer did not know that those feet are already very dirty, at least for the civilized world in which we live. Those feet are of a “तवायफ” who every evening ties a pair of ghunghroos in those very feet and dances in front of a group of lurking noblemen, one from among which would win her for the rest of the night.
Today I am talking about a film named Pakeezaah. This film is remembered for the brilliant acting of the cast, the chandelier laden and fountain adorned lavish sets, the ‘nafees’ Urdu dialogues filled with all the ‘nazaakat and nafaasat’ of Lakhnavi Urdu, the grand music…with all its Daadras and Thumris, the exotic and graceful dances, great camera work…and above all, its grandeur. The story of Pakeezah is a story of dedication…a dedication which pushes you to take care of every minutest of the details…like an error of millimeters in the focus of a camera lens, a dedication which pushes you to shoot a film in black and white, then again shooting it in colour…and then again shooting it in cinemascope…finally taking 14 years to produce it….and yet being unsatisfied. The people who created this magnum opus were working on that level of dedication and involvement on which their own being becomes worthless to them and any type of compromise is out of question….even if it is about waiting for 4 years to persuade a particular actress to play the lead…and even if it is about the acute sickness of that actress which would eventually lead to her death only after two months of the release of the picture.
Pakeezah is not a love story. It may seem to be, but in fact, it’s a saga of sorrows. This film was made by a heartbroken husband for his wife, who was dying of alcoholism. His name was Kamaal Amrohi and the name of his wife was Meena Kumari. Perhaps the feel in the character of a heartbroken Tawayaf was because her onscreen life bore much resemblance to the real world life of Meena. She was under great physical pain while shooting for Pakeezah….perhaps that’s why she did not need to put any extra effort to potray the expressions of pain in her character.
Both Meena and Kamaal started the film together in 1958 and it was their dream project. But both were a class in themselves and had their own personas and egos. And as it happens in most of the cases, Amrohi, a typical male of a male dominant society, developed ego problems with his wife. The situation worsened with time and in 1964, the couple separated. But this incident broke Meena from inside. She chose to drift in an illusionary world in which she was away from the failure of her love and sorrows of her life…she chose alcohol. With passing time, she became devastatingly addicted to it. She wrote –
“तुम क्या करोगे सुन कर मुझ से मेरी कहानी ,
बे लुत्फ़ ज़िन्दगी के किस्से हैं फ़ीके – फ़ीके ..”
Meanwhile, Amrohi had become cynically attached to Pakeezah. Till 1964, he had deleted and reshot Pakeezah two times. But with the separation of the couple, the shooting of the film came to an halt.
Amrohi had hired Ghulaam Mohammad as the music director of the film. Ghulam was a specialist of Indian classical music. But 60’s were a period of metamorphosis in the music of Indian cinema. Cheap imitations of western Jazz and Rock n Roll were being adopted by the music directors of India. Ghulaam Mohammad prepared the music of Pakeezah on a classical base by his heart and soul and top classical singers of that time gave voice to his songs. But only one film wont feed you for all your life…he had to search for new work. So he took a tape recorder, recorded the songs of Pakeezah in it and started going from director to director. But they want something more rocking….something more Jazzy. There was no work for Ghulam in Bombay. He ran out of money, he ran out of food. In 1968, he fell ill and he had no money to buy medicine. He died unmourned and unremembered. Today, if you hear the songs of Pakeezah, especially ‘ Chalte Chalte, Yu Hi Koi Mil Gaya Tha.. ’, and if you know how to appreciate good music, you will bow in respect to the forgotten musician.
Amrohi, a perfectionist, could think of no one but Meena Kumari for the lead role in Pakeezah. But Meena had laid down a condition before him that she will work in the film only if Kamaal. gives gives a formal Talaak. But if there was some ego, there was a magnitude of love too…Amrohi could never let her go. And then there was Pakeezah. After a battle of whole four years, ego lost to Pakeeza…if not to love.
In 1968, Kamaal wrote to Meena-
“…only Pakeezah’s completion remains 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 help complete ‘your Pakeezah’ I would be most happy to do so. This is my request, that Pakeezah on which the fortune of many people depends, and which has the good wishes of so many people should not be felt uncompleted if possible.
You have better means. You have power. You have box-office appeal, and most of all Pakeezah needs you personally…Pakeezah that is like a sinking ship will reach ashore under your care.”
So what happened next…?
Lot more to know…lot more to tell..