Art & CultureEntertainment

Pakeezah – A Tormented Love of Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari

आपके पांव देखे, बहुत हसीन हैं, इन्हें जमीन पर मत उतारिएगा मैले हो जाएंगे।

An immortal story with a connection of eternal, restless, and tormented love between Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari that took almost 14 years to complete. Yes! I am talking about the milestone movie in the career of Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari’s Pakeezah that gave a new path to Bollywood industry. The movie was not just filled with unconditional love between the characters Nargis and Salim Ahmed Khan, but was also a true definition of distress, yet pure form of love between real-life couple i.e. Kamal Amrohi, the director of ‘Pakeezah’ and Meena Kumari, the beautiful, graceful, and delightful lead actress of the movie.


The movie was directed, produced, and written by Kamal Amrohi and released in 1972, after a long gap of 14 years. The Mahrut of the movie was already released in the year 1958, but due to various misfortune incidents, Kamal couldn’t complete the movie before 1972. The movie witnessed a lot of deaths during this period, including, music director Ghulam Mohammad and Josef Wirsching, a German cinematographer who was hired for Pakeezah. Even Meena Kumari also died after the release of the movie due to liver cirrhosis.

Kamal Amrohi Immortalized Meena Kumari with Pakeezah –

Kamal Amrohi not just immortalized Pakeezah, but he did bestow his never-ending love for Meena by creating such a beautiful and wonderful movie Pakeezah. The movie was a dream for Kamal Amrohi and his only wish was to cast Meena Kumari as a Nargis in this movie. Even after the movie was stopped for a long period of time, he didn’t compromise with the fact that he only wants to take Meena Kumari as the lead actress in this movie. In a letter written by Kamal to his beloved wife he said:


“Only Pakeezahh’s completion remain unsettled. You have made a condition that unless I give you a divorce you will not complete Pakeezahh. Even this knot can be untied … I will free you from your marital ties. After this if you wish to complete your Pakeezahh. I would be the happiest to do so. This is my request, that Pakeezahh on which the fortune of many people depends, and which had the good wishes of so many people should not be left uncompleted if possible. You have better means. You have box-office appeal, and most of all Pakeezahh needs you personally … Pakeezahh that is like a sinking ship will reach a shore under your care.”

Meena Kumari replied to this letter and said:


“In regard to my working in Pakeezahh, I have always been willing and clamoring to work. Pakeezahh is my life dream and it will be my greatest pleasure to see it completed. As for my remuneration, I am glad you have given me an opportunity to prove my regards and respect for you. I shall accept only ONE GUINEA as a token of goodwill for my entire work in Pakeezahh.”

For Pakeezah, Kamal didn’t want to compromise a single thing and to depict his story, he chose the obvious locations that can contribute a lot to his movie. He chose Lucknow as the prominent location for Pakeezah, a city of Nawabs and was famously known for Tawaifs during old times.

चलो दिलदार चलो चाँद के पार चलो

हम हैं तैयार चलो

Meena Kumari was extremely ill during Pakeezah and that is the reason that most of the songs either was shot by covering the face of Meena Kumari or either by her look-alike actress Padma Khanna. The song ‘Chalo dildar chalo’ was shot at the Gomti river in Lucknow but avoided to show the face of Meena Kumari. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and due to its Nawabi’s influence, the city has witnessed a lot of movies depicting the real character of Nawabs, for instance, Umrao jaan and various other movies. Although, in Pakeezah, Raj Kumar didn’t play the role of a Nawab, but he did perform well in the movie as a forest officer.


There are various places in Lucknow, where you can visit, such as, Bara Imambara, Chota Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, Ambedkar Memorial Park, Dilkusha Kothi, The Residency, and various other places that contributes to Uttar Pradesh tourism.

चलते चलते, चलते चलते

यूँही कोई मिल गया था, यूँही कोई मिल गया था

सरे राह चलते चलते, सरे राह चलते चलते

वहीं थमके रह गई है, वहीं थमके रह गई है

मेरी रात ढलते ढलते, मेरी रात ढलते ढलते

Shooting Location Played a Major Role in Pakkezah –

As the movie was released after 14 years, a lot of people advised Kamal Amrohi to change the songs and music of Pakeezah as it was already too old according to the present era of that time, but he refused to do so because music director Ghulam Mohammad already died before the movie could release and so Kamal Amrohi wanted to give him a tribute through his songs in Pakeezah.

hawa mahalOriginally twelve songs were recorded with Ghulam Mohammad for Pakeezah, but Kamal included just 6 songs and one of them was Chalte Chalte’ that was shot at Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. It is a palace in Jaipur that is constructed with red and pink sandstone.

There are various scenes in the movie that has been shot in Karnataka. These locations were not just prominent for the movie, but they also created an aura of romance between Nargis and Salim. There was a scene in which Salim and Nargis were both in a serious as well as in romantic conversation nearby Shivanasamudra Falls in Mandya, Karnataka. The district is almost twelve kilometers from Mysore and has an important significance in Pakeezahh. You can also witness here the first Hydro-electric power station of Asia in Mandya.

Considered as the second biggest fall in India, the romantic scene between Salim and Nargis popularized the movie among the audience and people get to know about a romantic place in Karnataka. In another scene when Salim brings Nargis to a dargah; The place is a Dargah of Hazarath Sayyaduna Hazarath Murdana Gayib, that is also in Mandya, Karnataka.

हमारा ये बाजार एक कब्रिस्तान हैऐसी औरतों का जिनकी रूहें मर जाती हैऔर जिस्म जिंदा रहता है.’

To depict the character of Meena Kumari as the real Tawaif, Kamal Amrohi went to Jaipur and Bangalore and contacted jewelers who could construct pieces of jewelry that can give a royal look to Meena Kumari. He even went to Null Bazaar in Mumbai and  purchased real bangles that could suit the character of Meena Kumari. Some of the scenes were also shot at Balmuri falls and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, both in Mysore.

It was always Meena Kumari that was the first choice of Kamal Amrohi for Pakeezah and finally, he gave a tribute to his beloved wife by completing this movie. After the release of the movie, Meena Kumari died due to serious illness. She was known for her tragedy roles and often called as a ‘Queen of Tragedy’. After her death, she was buried at Rahematabad Qabristan in Mumbai. Kamal Amrohi was also buried next to her grave after his death in 1993. Of course, their love was not a fairy tale, but it does have an eternal bond that was not broken even after their death.

Deepti Ratnam

2 thoughts on “Pakeezah – A Tormented Love of Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *