User Reviews (22)

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  • Spondonman5 August 2004
    At last - I've finally got round to it and managed to see a "clean" copy of Pakeezah! Up until now I've only had a mangled scratchy jerky version taped off Dubai TV sometime in the '90's, with quirky English subtitles, dizzying widescreen coverage and a fluid colour with a mind of its own. Having thought the world of such a poor (and short) copy I find the decent one was well worth the wait and the full 140 minutes even more of a pleasure than I thought possible.

    This was the lovely Meena Kumari's film from start to finish, and I believe was planned by her from 1958 on, finally realising it in 1971. What a shame it was that chronic alcoholism finally killed her soon afterwards, and in fact that she was too ill to perform in some of the scenes in Pakeezah, necessitating a body double. In some scenes the strain definitely shows in her face.

    The story of Purity versus Adversity I can only treat as fiction having no experience of anything remotely close to it, but I'm led to understand that it faithfully depicts a world now gone that must have been common at one time in India. It's a sparkling and colourful film with a simple relentless epic message, an intense romantic tragedy which is somehow simultaneously feelgood too. But to me it's the peerless golden music by Ghulam Mohammed as sung by the incomparable Lata Mangeshkar - especially Thare Rahiyo - and its part in the unfolding of the story that makes this film so outstanding. I've seldom heard such serious, beautiful, poetic, wondrously sung and played songs on any movie soundtrack. Singin' In The Rain may be my favourite musical film but Pakeezah has my favourite music - yet Lata said that the songs themselves meant nothing special to her. The only pity is that the also unique Mohammed Rafi only had the one song in here, albeit a classic duet with Lata.

    Because of all this but not blind to its faults, Pakeezah is my favourite Indian movie, filmed at a time when the Westernisation of India was gathering pace and watched now when Western values seem to be state sponsored and de rigueur. At the very least watch Pakeezah for a taste of what Indian "pop" music had to offer the world before it was all jettisoned for drum machines, the Bollywood Beat and bhangra.
  • This movie is one among the very few Indian movies, that would never fade away with the passage of time, nor would its spell binding appeal ever diminish, even as the Indian cinema transforms into the abyss of artificially styled pop culture while drill oriented extras take to enhancing the P.T. styled film songs.

    The cinematography speaks of the excellent skills of Josef Werching that accentuate the monumental and cinema scope effect of the film in its entirety.

    Gone are the days of great cinema, when every scene had to be clipped many times and retakes taken before finalizing it, while meticulous attention was paid in crafting and editing the scenes. Some of its poignant scenes are filled with sublime emotional intensity, like the instance, when Meena Kumari refuses to say "YES" as an approval for Nikah (Marriage Bond) and climbs down the hill while running berserk in traumatized frenzy. At the moment, Raj Kumar follows her, and a strong gale of wind blew away the veil of Kumari and onto the legs of Kumar........

    Kamal Amrohi shall always be remembered with golden words in the annals of Indian Cinema's history for endeavoring to complete this movie in a record setting 12 years. He had to manage filming of some of the vital songs without Meena's close ups, because Meena Kumari, the lady in the lead role was terminally ill and fighting for her life in early 1971.
  • m_shankar2010 February 2008
    Pakeezah has a very interesting history (which is well documented in the 'Trivia' section) about how it came to be. It seems as if destiny conspired to test Kamal Amrohi (the director) while at the same time secretly desiring to see him complete his masterpiece.

    Pakeezah rides on metaphors, poetry and visual elocution. As a result the intensity with which emotions come out achieve a dimension which may not be very real but are very effective and leave an impact on the viewer.

    Meena Kumari lives the tragedy of Nargis and Sahib Jaan like her own. The other stars of the film, besides her, are Ghulam Mohammed (the music director), Lata Mangeshkar, Naushad (background score) and Joseph Wirsching (the d.o.p). Their music and cinematography leaves you spell bound.

    Pakeezah is a classic in world cinema. It reveals new layers to you every time you watch it again. Kamal Amrohi is one of the rare poets of cinema and he left us all a gift.
  • RajB16 August 2001
    Without question, this film has to be one of the greatest ........ in cinematic history. I have it watched too many times to remember, and each time it is like I am seeing the film for the first time.

    Where does one begin?

    Meena Kumari's central performance is undoubtedly one of the finest of her career, followed closely by Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Phool aur Pathar. Each movement and nuance of her performance, makes any other Bollywood heroine pale into significance. Her masterly interpretation of Kathak coupled with her grace, tragic vulnerability and poetic delivery of Urdhu, is like nothing ever seen on the bollywood screen.

    Pakeezah is perhaps the most stylised interpretation of the human condition; the photography, sumptuous cinematography and mise en scene, are so charged with symbolism and meaning, that the viewer is left breathless.

    Naushads music, is unsurpassed, his knowledge of the music of the courtesan gharanas is incredible, and the way in which he punctuates the narrative with dark atmospheric motifs and overwhelming romantic melodies is indeed remarkable.

    My only advice to anyone who seriously enjoys the spectacle of total cinema, should watch this epic mediation on life and art.
  • Perhaps the most polished and accomplished of all Indian films - Pakeezah does not fall into any of the traps commonly associated with Bollywood film (ie tackiness, farce, wholesale and unsuccessful imitation of western film themes/genres). Pakeezah is indigenous to the Sub-Continent and authentic, almost Madam Butterfly-like in plot. Characters are well-developed, direction, although sometimes unrefined by today's standards, perceptive and convincing. The Urdu-speaking milieux at the time of Pakeezah were masters of understatement and how the dialogue conveys the subtleties of the age! The acting (particularly the 'looks' and the dynamic between characters) are a delight to behold although the nuances may be lost on contemporary viewers or those not acquainted with the mores and customs of Muslim India.

    Coupled, with a captivating screenplay is a beautiful musical score, enhanced by the protagonist displaying eminent command of classical Indian dance (kathak). As is the case with most romantic tragedies, the heroine must die, but she does not take her leave of the audience without the viewer feeling he/she has been party to a truly memorable cinema experience. Pakeezah is surely the pinnacle of what Indian cinema has produced and is unlikely to be paralleled.
  • This is definitely one of the best movies I've ever seen-- it has everything-- a genuinely touching screenplay, fine actors that make subtlety a beautiful art to watch, an actually elegant romance (it's a shame that that kind of romance just doesn't seem to exist anymore), lovely songs and lyrics (especially the final song), an artistic score, and costumes and sets that make you want to live in them. The ending was only a disappointment in that I was expecting a spectacular film to have a brilliant end-- but it was still more wonderful then the vast majority of movies out there. Definitely check this movie out-- over and over again. There are many details you miss the first time that deserve a second look.
  • Pakeezah is in my mind the greatest achievement of Indian cinema. The film is visually overwhelming but also emotionally breathtaking. The music, the songs, the sets, the costumes, the cinematography, in fact every creative element is worthy of superlatives.
  • Besides the fact that it was one of the few movies that I ever shed a tear over (bye-bye manhood), this is one of the most beautifully crafted Indian films that has ever been made. From the finely crafted sets, to those haunting looks Meena Kumari gives, no one can ever forget it. The music of Pakeezah is amazing, all the more if you can understand the sublime poetry, and is definitely one of those "OMG, 5 minutes another song" movies. You get the feeling of how trapped Sahibjaan is in among all the amazing jewelery she wears and fountained court yard she casually walks past.

    A parody of all the dreams you've ever had..........
  • A great film requiring an acquired taste. If you're into action, wham bam films and hate serious love stories then its not for you. Otherwise, if you like to sit in front of a good intelligent movie now and again I recommend this very highly. Easily the best film produced in Bollywood this century.

    The only other Indian film I would give 10/10 for is Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Even then it comes second to this masterpiece.
  • bnanno15 June 2007
    This film opened to poor showings in the first few weeks. Then Meena Kumari died and it just brought the crowds rolling in. Songs on All India Radio, especially Inhi LogoN ne were played so often that I was sick of them at the time, despite recognising their beauty!

    Yes, it did take all those years to make. This was because the marriage was a very unhappy one and Kamal Amrohi also had difficulty finding the money to make the film; looking at the sumptous sets and costumes, not surprising!! Not only does Meena Kumari age and fall ill but listen carefully to Lata's voice. Inhi logoN ne has her 50's younger voice while songs that were re-recorded like Chalo dildar chalo show clear development. I only wish someone would find the Ghulam Mohammad songs that weren't included in the film, because of changing fashions that called for fewer though slightly songs and publish them. Lata in a recent interview (2007) rated Ghulam Mohammad as one of the best composers she had ever worked with, apart from Madan Mohan (a great personal friend). Notice also that you hardly see the actors at all in the Chalo dildar songs, very unusual. There is only a brief shot of Raj Kumar from the middle distance and you only see the back of the supposed Meena Kumari. Kamal Amrohi made a virtue out of necessity and focused on the stars and moon. Any other film, this song would have had close-ups of both of them.

    As for this being the finest film ever, I would beg to differ. It means you have missed a lot of Indian cinema, in no particular order, films like Barsaat (old), Devdas (older versions), Bandini, Do Bigha Zameen, Garam Hava, Dastak, Guddi, Aan, Pyasa, Kagaz ke Phool, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Kabuliwallah, Abhimaan, Guide, Sujatha, Bombay ka Babu, Daag, Parineeta (old), Umrao Jaan, etc. etc. And if you valued music more than story the list would simply grow with beautiful scores from Barsat Ki Raat to Naya Daur, Teesri Manzil, Mahal, Aag, Jugnu, Anand, Mera Naam Joker: the list is really endless!

    So enjoy Pakeezah but don't miss out on any of the above...
  • cantara8522 January 2015
    'Pakeezah' means pure. It's a spectacular movie written, directed and produced by Kamal Amrohi; starring Meena Kumari and Raaj Kumar. This movie perfectly portrayed the life, dream, expectations, disappointment, and wishes of 'Sahib Jaan', the leading character in the film played by Meena Kumari. Her dream gets stumbled with bitter reality, though the movie ultimately has a happy ending. This movie shows some spectacular dream sequences, as well.

    This amazing movie with outstanding music and song lyrics will create magic in millions of classic movie fans for years after years. Songs were sung by singer Lata Mangeshkar, singer Mohd. Rafi and Mehdi Hassan.

    Flawless acting and performances of Meena Kumari and Raaj Kumar and the other notable artists are truly memorable. Marvelous direction, music, cinematography. A really good piece of film by Kamal Amrohi. The song lyrics are truly mesmerizing and intriguing. Lyrics were written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kaif Bhopali & Kamal Amrohi.Some beautiful and memorable songs from the movie are 'Chalo dildar chalo', 'Chalte chale','Teer e nazar dekhenge', 'Mausam hain ashiana', Thaare rahiyo'. 'Inhi logo ne' is the most famous song from Pakeezah.

    Music was composed by Ghulam Mohammed & Naushad Ali, Cinematography by Josef Wirsching, and the movie was edited by D.N. Pai. The sets where the movie was shot were beautiful designed by Kamal Amrohi himself. And the costumes were designed by multi-talented actress Meena Kumari herself.
  • wmbinnal27 June 2011
    Well what can you say about a movie like this,well there is only one word amazing, as i speak "urdu" i understand the language very well, the dialogue's in this movie are excellent and of course the poetry(especially when "rajkumar" enters the train).This movie is about the fake pride build in contemporary Indian societies families and the famous "nawabs" of that era.

    The movie gets the start not that well however after the 10min the dialogues the songs will keep you entertained This is movie which will sweep you off with its music dance and script.This is all time favourite
  • iftikharkhokher29 August 2007
    The ultimate homage to a great film actress.The film is a masterpiece of poetry on the screen.Like great poetry it is timeless.Direction,cast,screenplay,music,lyrics,in fact all the norms for movie-making are perfectly chosen to suit the message of the film.The Muslim society in India has never been presented with such respect,nobility and reality.The script is memorable in the hands of Meena,Ashok,Raaj Kumar,Nadira etc to name a few.Personally i was most impressed by the regal looking Kamal Kapoor.The master movie maker Kamal Amrohi's lasting legacy to the sub-continent.A very beautiful film on a controversial theme that makes humanity look up and face the reality of the outcasts in the world.'In ka naam? Pakeeza! haan Pakeza'.Such acting is unheard of in this age of sex,dance and pornography.
  • Mina Kumari exhibits more style and grace just moving from standing, to sitting on the floor than you can find in most other movies. The director has produced more memorable scenes of touching beauty than it would seem possible. The music and dancing is of the highest possible quality. You may notice in the first dance scene the director has all sorts of things occurring in the background:other girl dancing, a drunk falling down stairs, much activity, but he knew that we would be watching Mina dance and I'll bet unless you viewed this many times, you didn't notice.All in all, perfection.J.Q.
  • Superjul11 September 1998
    Such a film of beauty that it's hard to describe. Maybe it's the absence of superfluous dialogue, or maybe it's the absolutely stellar soundtrack, or maybe it's just Meena Mumari's feet, but it's a joy to watch this movie again and again. I've never seen another Indian movie that comes close to it, and few from any country rival its perfection.
  • Pratik1129 November 2006
    If ever I was asked to remember a song from a film of yester years, then it would have to be "Chalo Di Daar Chalo Chand Ke Paar Chalo" for its meaning, the way it is sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi, the lyrics by Kaif Bhopali and not to mention the cinema photography when the sailing boat goes out against the black background and the shining stars. The other would have to be "Chalte Chalte." Pakeezah was Meena Kumari's last film before she died and the amount of it time it took can be seen on the screen. In each of the the songs that are picturised, she looks young but after that she does not. But one actor who didn't change in his looks was the late Raj Kumar, who falls in love with her and especially her feet, after he accidentally goes into her train cabin and upon seeing them, he leaves a note describing how beautiful they are.

    Conclusion: Pakeezah is a beautiful romantic story that, if at all possible should be viewed on large screen just for the sake of the cinema photography and songs. The movie stars the Meena kumari, Raj Kumar and Ashok Kumar and is directed by Kamal Amrohi.

    Kamal Amrohi's grandson has now started to revive his grand father's studio by making a comedy movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "...when he looks at Beauty in the only way that Beauty can be seen - only then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of virtue…, but to true virtue…" - Plato, "Symposium"

    "Beauty is worse than wine; it intoxicates both the holder and beholder." - Aldous Huxley

    It was some years back that my son presented me with a complimentary ticket for a special screening of this movie in Tokyo, in connection with some commemorative occasion which totally escapes me now, along with the venue. I had never heard of "Pakeezah," but I had recently returned from my first or second trip to India, and my enthusing about my impressions and experiences there had obviously prompted him to give me the ticket that had somehow come into his hands (he had no interest in going himself). As things turned out, I missed it. But I knew I had missed something special (I believe the ticket contained the word "legendary"), and so began what must've been about a decade of searching for it in the erstwhile video stores and today's DVD home delivery rental operations, all to absolutely no avail. You can imagine my joy when I finally found the whole thing available for viewing online, with English subtitles.

    "Pakeezah" ("Pure Heart") is indeed special, but certainly not because of the story. It is an oft-told tale of an ill-starred woman, in this case a "tawaif" singer-dancer courtesan, who eventually finds happiness after a lifetime of hardship, through some incredible, i.e., non- credible, twists of fate. The plot is, frankly, ludicrous. The courtesan, or rather her mother (both roles played by Ashok Kumar), rarely appears out of her dancing costume or without makeup, even when wandering around a cemetery in the throes of death. Inconsistencies? It is hard to tell in what age the drama is set; its times seem at once medieval and modern. (I was puzzled when a well-heeled "nawab" patron stepped out of a horse-drawn carriage wearing sunglasses, but later learned that shades could very well have been around in the latter days of steam locomotives.) Ditto for the stage sets. There is something extremely unreal and artificial about every character, every incident, every room, every thing. And the vicissitudes of the narrative are predictable in their unpredictability.

    But what "Pakeezah" has is beauty, and in an abundance that can be matched by few other movies. It is concentrated in its song-and-dance scenes, which are thankfully many. Director Kamal Amrohi was reportedly a perfectionist, and the dances in the classical "kathak" style were obviously the chief focuses for his practice of this predilection. They are truly "too much" - too rich, beautiful to an excessive degree. In creating them, he left nothing to chance or naturalness, and obsessively and meticulously put his hand to everything in them, meaning not only furnishings and appurtenances in interiors but also background scenery and activity out the window, and even the skies and heavenly bodies in them, which may actually be in flux during the number. Furthermore, the musical compositions are, without exception (as far as I am concerned), excellent works in themselves. Even in subtitles, the lovely, poetic lyrics of the songs (sung mainly by playback-singer godmother Lata Mangeshkar in her prime) accompanying the dances ring true and resonate in the heart with a genuineness of sentiment. In short, all the elements come together, perfectly, in displays of total cinematographic art that delight the eye, ear, heart, and mind. Charged with virtually palpable passion and desire to boot, the dance scenes are nothing less than intoxicating.

    The reality of "Pakeeza" therefore lies in its dance vignettes, whose truth and beauty are only thrown into sharper relief by the unreality and mediocrity of much of the footage framing them. Their consummation in the film after 14 years' worth of trials and tribulations attests to the director's unswerving commitment to his aesthetics and conviction in their value. In this sense, his is the real "pakeezah."

    Needless to say, a 10 for the dance scenes. (James Koetting)
  • Pakeezah Was Directed By Kamal Amrohi...Who Was Known For His Perfectionism....It Was Produced & Written Again By Him... Screenplay Is Fine With The Script...

    Story is About Sahibjaan Who Was Brought Up By Brothel Madame Nawabjaan.... She Grows Up & Becomes Popular Dancer/Singer.... Forest Ranger Salim is Enthralled By Her Beauty & Innocence, Convinces Her To Elope With Him But Trials And Tribulations Await As She is Recognized By Men Wherever She Goes With Salim.... When He Renames Her Pakeezah (Pure) Takes Her To A Priest To Be Legally Married, She Refuses, Returns To The Brothel..The Story Moves Further...

    Meena Kumari As Sahibjaan Is Best Part Of The Movie....She Is Brilliant With Acting & Dancing...Raj Kumar As Salim Is Fine ...He Is Good In Few Of The Scenes....Veena As Nawabjaan Does Well..

    Music Is Composed By Ghulam Mohammad & Naushad....Ghulam Mohammad Died During The Making Of The Movie So Naushad Was In...It Has Some Classic Dance Numbers Like "Chalte Chalte" By Lata,"Inhi Logon Ne" By Lata,"Thare Rahiyo" By Lata.....

    Overall A Great Movie...It Took 14 Years To Complete The Movie...Many Changes Took Place During The Making But Final Output Was Brilliant ...The Film, Which Had Been Declared A Flop When First Released, Became A Success....Today Considered A Classic...Must Watch :)
  • This movie is a masterpiece and a cult classic in its own.Kamal amrohi put 14 years to complete this movie it is best remembered for the famous songs chalo dildar chalo and Raaj kar famous dialogue (aap ke paao deekhe bohot Hassan hai inhe zameen par mat utariye maile ho jainge) The amazing story the acting the dialogues the massage How it used to be a life of a protitute and how people used to treat them back in the days. Watch it only if you want to go back in time and picture the situation. Big Applause to Meena kumar for her dedication and acting and The Filmmaker Kamal amrohi for completeing the movie only a dreamer can make a movie like this Pakeezah please watch the movie without any expectation and you decide how is the classic.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Pakeezah is a story of family, of values, of pride, but mostly of love. It is a story of the love between two people. And the misguided love of fathers for their sons. Or is it love?


    When the son of a rich man falls in love with a prostitute, he looks beyond her past and marries her. But as loving as he is, that is how stubborn and unforgiving his father is. He rejects his new daughter-in-law who as a broken woman, takes up residence in a cemetary where she lives for only one purpose. To give birth to her child. After the child, a girl, is born, she dies and the child is brought up by her mother's sister who runs the brothel where her mother used to work. The girl, Pakeezah, ends up dancing in this brothel just as her mother before her. One day while travelling by train a stranger, Salim, accidentally wanders into her compartment. He is immediately enchanted by this wonderful creature though mostly by her feet (fetishist?). He writes her a note and she instantly falls in love with the man who wrote this note. Ironically as fate would have it, Salim is the nephew of Pakeezah's father. History is about to repeat itself. Or is it?

    A story about an impossible love. A story about destiny. Pakeezah is considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. As a novice to classic Bollywood movies it's difficult to put this film in its context. Comparing it to other movies, however, I can't help but wonder whether its fame is a hype or not. Undoubtedly it's a beautiful story. But it's also extremely long and at times tedious. A story strung together by unrealistic coincidences. Maybe this is a sign of destiny at work. Or perhaps it is a sign of a weak script!

    I'm glad I watched it, but I infinitely enjoyed movies such as Bobby (with Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia) and Kudrat (with Hema Malini and Rajesh Khanna) more and those are also classics in their own right.

    Pakeezah despite any flaws it might have remains interesting if not for its story then for its history. Pakeezah took fourteen years to complete. Its production was thwarted by the passing of Meena Kumari who plays the main role. Another actress was sought to finish filming this movie and she was meticulously weaved into the story. On another interesting note, some might have noticed that Meena Kumari always hides her left hand. The reason for this is that she was very conscious about the fact she didn't have a pinky finger.

    Finally, a word about the music. The songs in Pakeezah are absolutely beautiful and they alone already make this movie worthwile.

    ***/5 stars
  • kenjha5 June 2008
    This typically melodramatic Bollywood film has inexplicably become a favorite of Western critics. The script is ludicrous, the acting is over-the-top, and it looks cheesy. The only reasons for watching this soap opera are the wonderful songs sung by Mangeshkar and the curtain call of the legendary Meena Kumari. Watching the actress, who was ill during the filming and would drink herself to death at age 40 shortly after the film was released, has the same fascination as watching a train wreck. Her ex-husband, Amrohi, wrote and directed, but lacks the competency to execute either task well. Bollywood has produced far better films.