Pakeezah, 1971

Pakeezah (source:

Pakeezah (source:

Directed, story, and screenplay by Kamal Amrohi

I can’t give this one a full review, since the only copy I was able to obtain was of very poor quality. It was difficult to watch. I know this is a powerful story, and the climax of the movie is especially powerful. The plot follows the not-uncommon path of a pregnant woman abandoned and her child raised without knowing its true, higher-class origins. The climax is during a scene in which Sahibjaan, the girl whose mother was abandoned, dances at the arranged marriage of the man who was once her husband. She was raised by her aunt, who is from the courtesan-like class, so her job is singing and dancing. She sings and dances for her ex-husband while he watches her hungrily from behind a pillar. Her anguish is clear during her song, although she puts on a good performance, but as soon as she sees that the groom has left the hall, she knocks over a lamp, breaking glass everywhere. She dances over the shards, leaving bloody tracks across the white carpet—tracks she keeps dancing over until she collapses. The song and dance contain meaning on several levels, and the film would not be the same if she had merely pointed and screamed and spoken the meanings. Even when expected, this scene is always startling.

Song Highlights: The song from the climax, of course—“Teer-e-Nazar.” It’s a beautiful song just by itself. With music by Ghulam Mohammed and Naushad, lyrics by Kamal Amrohi et al.

Tidbits: The climax scene is referenced in a scene from Sholay only two years later, showing both the power of the scene itself and how Bollywood years are like five Hollywood years, since so many films are produced. This movie took 14 years to make and you can see the age differences in the actors throughout; Meena Kumari, who played Sahibjaan, died of alcoholism shortly after the film was released (this and her rocky relationship with her husband, who was the director, were what made it take so long).

Rating: Partly because the video quality was bad, so I’m not sure if the cinematography is good or not.

Library Collection: Definitely for historical purposes; otherwise, go by what the patrons want.

© 2009 Jill Wohlgemuth

About jillbrary

Spirit of the woods
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