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In 1955 Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi were in South India and here Kamal Amrohi began outlining the plot of his next film with his wife Meena Kumari and decided that he would call it Pakeezah (the name has a fascinating history too. It was changed many times due to superstitious reasons, but finally the original stayed. After the failure of Daera in 1953, Pakeezah as an idea was roaming Amrohi’s mind. A concept, Kamal Amrohi says was irretrievably fixed with his love for his wife Meena Kumari, he hopes to create a film which would be worthy of her as an actress, and worthy of the love he felt for her as a woman.

Kamal Amrohi declares that every line he wrote he had Meena in mind. He wished to present her on the screen as no one had before: beautiful, sad, sanguine, dejected, calculating, sexy he ambitioned to capture as many dimensions of her as he knew of. Meena Kumari regarded the film as Kamal Amrohi tribute to her. Kamal Amrohi son Tajdar Amrohi raised by Meena Kumari said “What you see in Pakeezah is exactly how our home looked like — the same windows, chandeliers, arches and curtains.” The grandfather’s character was taken from Amrohi’s father. “The dining table sequence in which Raaj Kumar says, ‘Afsos, log doodh se bhi jal jaate hai,’ was inspired by everyday domestic scenes at our home. “When an elder enters the room, the womenfolk put on their veil. This is what baba showed in Pakeezah and that’s how women at our home behaved.” says Tajdar, “And his romance with my chhoti ammi was very dignified. Despite being separated, they felt for each other. But they never divorced as rumours go. They loved each other and chhoti ammi respected my father and never allowed anyone to say anything against him.”

“Kamal Amrohi’s blurb for his film explains this best: ‘For her to fall in love was forbidden — it was a sin she was told. A nautch girl is born to delight others, such is her destiny. She preferred to die a thousand deaths than to live as a body without a soul. And yet when her restless soul could not suppress this surging desire to love and be loved, she took birth as Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah.”

In 1964, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari got separated due to their mutual differences but the separation never led to formal divorce. The project came to a halt In moments of desperation, Kamal thought of a substitute for Meena Kumari. He even made some sort of search, but each time he came back from where he had started. The one and only woman who could play Sahebjan was Meena Kumari.

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Celebrating Cinema

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