A passionate, opulent Indian melodama, far removed from the rarefied aesthetics of Satyajit Ray. Arguably the greatest achievement of Hindi popular cinema, Kamal Amrohi's tribute to his ill-starred wife, Meena Kumari (who died of drink shortly after the film's release), rivals Sirk and
Minnelli in its quasi-feminist subversion of melodramatic norms. Kumari plays the title character, a Muslim courtesan who longs for escape from a Lucknow brothel; Raj Kumar is the wealthy young man who loves her, to the horror of his parents. In keeping with the conventions of Indian commercial
films, the narrative proceeds at a leisurely pace and pauses frequently for song and dance sequences (which are uniformly enchanting); it builds powerfully, however, and climaxes in a moment of unforgettable hysteria as a barefoot Kumari dances on broken glass at Kumar's wedding to another woman.
Due to financial and marital problems, as well as Kumari's declining health, PAKEEZAH was filmed intermittently over nearly a decade; fortunately, it was shot roughly in sequence, and the marked deterioration of Kumari's beauty over time only reinforces the tragic quality of her portrayal. The
soundtrack songs, performed by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar (who holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having recorded more songs than anyone else in history), are considered classics in India and sound lovely even to untrained Western ears. While PAKEEZAH was
enthusiastically received by British critics and audiences after its London premiere, it has been neglected in recent years; filmmaker/critic Peter Wollen, however, named it as one of the ten best movies ever made in the 1992 "Sight and Sound" poll.
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- Released: 1971
- Rating: NR
- Review: A passionate, opulent Indian melodama, far removed from the rarefied aesthetics of Satyajit Ray. Arguably the greatest achievement of Hindi popular cinema, Kamal Amrohi's tribute to his ill-starred wife, Meena Kumari (who died of drink shortly after the fi… (more)