On Meena Kumari's death anniversary, rare 'Pakeezah' footage found

On legendary actress Meena Kumari's 49th death anniversary, the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) on Wednesday announced it has found a rare 18-minute-long footage of the making of Kamal Amrohi's 1972 classic "Pakeezah".

The 16-mm footage was acquired from the collection of one of the distributors of "Pakeezah" - which remains among the most-recalled celluloid creations in the 108-year-old history of the Indian film industry.

"The footage is titled 'Pakeezah - Rang Barang' in the collection. It has rare visuals of the 16-year long journey of 'Pakeezah', from its inception to the theatre release," NFAI Director Prakash Magdum said.

On March 31, 1972, Meena Kumari breathed her last at the young age of 39, stunning the nation, but leaving behind a treasure trove of over 90 memorable films, awards, honours and a legion of fans who remember her even today.

Magdum said that the highlight of the acquisition is the visuals of the famed 'mujra' number, "Inhi Logon Ne", but shot in black and white in the early stages of the film's shooting which spanned over 16 years before it hit the silver screens and created Bollywood history.

In this black-and-white portion, Meena Kumari is dancing to a differently choreographed sequences and it was one of the first one to be shot with the clapper board date showing "July 16, 1956".

Besides, the footage contains a qawwali sung by legendary Mohammed Rafi "Jaye To Jaye Kana, Ab Ye Tera Deewana", which was not included in the film that was released in 1972.

Besides "Inhi Logon Ne", the other top songs in the film include "Chalo Dildaar Chalo", "Chalte, Chalte, Yuhin Koi Mil Gaya Tha", "Mausam Hai Aashiqana", "Thade Rahiyo", "Teere Nazar," "Najariya Ki Maari," while nine other numbers comprising thumris, ghazals, and qawwalis were released in a separate album by Amrohi in 1977.

The other visuals comprise unseen scenes of the film's grand premiere held at the iconic Maratha Mandir cinema in Bombay Central on February 4, 1972 -- barely two months before Meena Kumari passed away.

Costing a staggering Rs 1.50 crore, "Pakeezah" was the country's first colour film in Cinemascope, and was also the inaugural film telecast by the India's new public broadcaster, Doordarshan in the early 1970s.

As top film historians and critics put it, "Pakeezah" (meaning 'Pure') was a poetic, passionate, celluloid tribute to Meena Kumari by her husband, Amrohi - who died in February 1993 - and the film's premiere was the last one the couple attended together.

With the immortal music composed by Ghulam Mohammed, and then Naushad Ali, who stepped in after his death, it tells the travails of an early 20th century Lucknow 'tawaif' (nautch-girl) who falls in love, which was forbidden for women practising her profession.

The other prominent actors in "Pakeezah" included big names like Ashok Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Nadira, D.K. Sapru, Veena Kumari and others.

"This is a very rare addition to the NFAI collection. The preliminary inspection reveals the film is heavily scratched and colour faded. We are trying our best to salvage the material so that it can be made accessible to the audience", said Magdum.

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