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45 years of Pakeezah: 9 things you didn't know about Kamal Amrohi's passion project


On its 45th anniversary, we revisit interesting trivia about Pakeezah.

Sonal Pandya

A passion project of filmmaker Kamal Amrohi, Pakeezah (1972) was plagued with problems all through shooting and when Pakeezah finally released, the true depths of Amrohi’s vision were revealed. On its 45th anniversary, we revisit interesting trivia related to the long-in-the-making cult classic.

1. Director Kamal Amrohi began Pakeezah's journey with a mahurat [first shot (take) of a film] in January 1957 with plans to star in the film. It was stuck in limbo for several years until its eventual release on 4 February 1972, 15 years later.

2. So much time had passed from the launch to the film's release that the project changed from a black and white film to colour and was later shot in Cinemascope, with a borrowed lens from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios on a royalty basis. Several portions of Pakeezah had to be reshot, bloating the budget and cost of the film.

3. Husband and wife, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari had a tumultuous relationship and separated during the making of the film. Close friends Sunil Dutt and Nargis saw the initial rushes of the film and urged Kumari to finish Pakeezah.

4. From 1957 to 1972, the film underwent dual tragedies as two key members of the crew passed away. Music composer Ghulam Mohammed died on 17 March 1968. The National Award-winner for Mirza Ghalib (1954), Mohammed had composed one of the best soundtracks of his career. Naushad stepped in and completed the background score and several alaaps [the improvised section of a raga], adding to an already exquisite composition with a film theme.

5. One of Indian cinema's earliest cinematographers, Josef Wirsching had previously worked with Amrohi on Mahal (1949). He was once again selected for Pakeezah. Wirsching passed away on 11 June 1967 from a heart attack. Many cinematographers pitched in to help out Amrohi, including Guru Dutt’s cinematographer VK Murthy. Wirsching even had a cameo in a crowd scene in Pakeezah.

6. Meena Kumari died on 31 March 1972, just after the release of the film. She was often sick during the lengthy filming process and can be seen lying down in several shots. In the dance sequences and long shots, actor-dancer Padma Khanna was used as a body double.

7. During the Filmfare Awards, Pran, who won for Best Supporting Actor for Be-imaan (1972), turned down the award as he believed the music for Pakeezah deserved the Best Music Director award. Shankar-Jaikishan picked the award instead for Be-imaan, which won four other awards including Best Film and Best Actor for Manoj Kumar.

8. Only art director NB Kulkarni was honoured with a technical award by Filmfare for his lavish and impressive sets from Pakeezah. The film was nominated in four other categories: Best Music Director, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Film.

Himmat (1941) version

Pakeezah (1972) version

9. Sahibjaan's famous introduction number 'Inhi Logon Ne' sung by Lata Mangeshkar wasn't an original composition. It was previously used in RK Shorey's Himmat (1941) and sung by none other than Shamshad Begum. The music was composed by Gobind Ram.