Movie Soundtracks

Audio master: ‘Pakeezah’ resonates to the sound of Meena Kumari’s anklets

The soundtrack of the 1972 classic was by Ghulam Mohammed, who used the foot ornaments to startling effect.

In a career spanning almost five decades, Kamal Amrohi wrote several movies but directed only four, not including Majnoon (1979), with Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee, which was shelved.

Pakeezah (1972), Amrohi’s third film after the success of Mahal (1949) and the poor reception of Daera (1953), is his magnum opus. Its high-flown Urdu dialogue reflects a culture in which courtesans receive royal patronage, and command respect for their excellence in the performing arts. An important prop in the film is the use of ghungroos, or anklets, to effectively convey both allure and bondage and produce music that accurately depicts a courtesan’s social environment.

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Title music of Pakeezah (1972).

Pakeezah opens with the rhythmic sounds of the ghungroos. The opening titles are superimposed on the courtesan Nargis (Meena Kumari) performing in the background. Music dominates the atmosphere, and runs thicker than blood.

Naushad’s name appears before the film’s original composer, Ghulam Mohammed. Naushad worked on the title music, a few background songs (Nazariya Ki Maari, Kaun Gali, Mora Saajan, Yeh Dhuan Sa) and the background music, but he got top billing over Mohammed, who composed 15 tracks, of which six were used in the film.

All female solos were sung by Lata Mangeshkar, with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kaif Bhopali, Kamal Amrohi, and the 18th-century poet Mir Taqi Mir. In 1977, the music label HMV released the nine unused songs featuring the voices of Suman Kalyanpur, Shobha Gurtu, Mohammad Rafi and Shamshad Begum in the album Rang Barang.

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Rang Barang (1977).

Nargis marries and elopes with Shahabuddin (Ashok Kumar). His family rejects her and she flees, taking shelter in a cemetery. Nargis gives birth to Sahibjaan in the cemetery (the infant inherits its tranquility) and dies. Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari again) is raised by her aunt Nawabjaan (Veena) and falls in love with a forest officer Salim (Raaj Kumar).

The first song Inhi Logon Ne is Sahibjaan’s introductory number. She is shown entertaining patrons with a joyous display of her singing and dancing skills. Sultanpuri’s lyrics are accusatory, condemning the audience of dishonouring her in the marketplace. Sung by Mangeshkar, with camerawork by Josef Wirsching that captures Sahibjaan’s ethereal beauty in a hot pink dupatta, the anklet-punctuated tune perfectly expresses her detachment from her kaleidoscopic world.

There also exists a 1941 version of Inho Logon Ne, sung by Shamshad Begum for the film Himmat, with music by Gobindram. Singer Yakub rendered a parody version of Gobindram’s tune in Aabroo (1943).

Since Pakeezah was in the making for 16 years, beginning in 1956 and releasing in 1972, Inhi Logon Ne was initially shot in black and white. Amrohi subsequently realised the evolving tastes of moviegoers when filmmakers began switching to colour, especially after the success of Mehboob Khan’s epic drama Mother India (1957). It became imperative to update the canvas of Pakeezah, which was rich in its visual opulence. Only colour could magnify its expressive brushstrokes.

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Inhi Logon Ne from Pakeezah (1972).

In the celebrated train sequence that follows, Salim accidentally enters Sahibjaan’s compartment and notices her anklet-adorned feet. He writes a letter to her that contains the famous line, “Aap ke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hain, inhe zameen par mat utariyega, mailey ho jayenge” (I saw your feet, they are beautiful, do not put them on the ground, they will be soiled). The sturdy anklet has been replaced by the silvery sound of the payal, the lighter ornamental footpiece – a premonition ignored by Sahibjaan, but marked upon by her colleague, who warns her that Salim fell for a respectable lady, not a courtesan.

Soon Sahibjaan is performing Thade Rahiyo for the wealthy Nawab Zafar (Kamal Kapoor), who is impatient to add her to his royal collection as a trophy mistress. Dressed to the nines, she saunters into the gathering. Her anklets announce her arrival, and she gives a spectacular performance. The tune is calibrated to the rhythm of her anklets. The metallic bells halt midway through her footwork and she curses them as “nigodi” (wretched) for underperforming.

The music stops. Mangeshkar takes a breather and continues reciting Sultanpuri’s lyrics, “Bole chama cham payal nigodi” (The wretched anklet speaks in sporadic bursts). Money is spilled, a gunshot is heard, and blood splashes over her performance.

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Thade Rahiyo from Pakeezah (1972).

Zafar tries to woo Sahibjaan with lavish gifts. Her anklets take one step forward and two steps back in the cautionary melody Chalte Chalte. The song immediately reappears on a barge trip with Zafar. She is still singing for him, but is addressing her elusive admirer.

The barge is attacked by elephants, the nawab dies, and Sahibjaan finds herself fortuitously outside Salim’s tent. She sings Mausam Hai Aashiqana, where the measured tempo of the anklets signifies a new direction. Romance blossoms when she meets Salim. But she has to return to her abode. The anklets are no longer music to her ears.

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Chalo Dildar Chalo from Pakeezah (1972).

Chale Dildar Chalo, the only duet sung by Mangeshkar and Rafi in the movie, is played in the background, when the two lovers decide to get married. There are all kinds of bells ringing in the air, with the anklets sound most prominent. Fearing for Salim’s reputation, Sahibjaan gets cold (and unadorned) feet and runs away from their wedding. Salim invites her to his wedding with another woman, which leads to Sahibjaan’s defiant dance in the dramatic climax song, Aaj Hum Apni Duaon Ka Asar.

She wears chunky anklets and stomps on broken glass. Her anklets are stained with blood, but she carries on. The tempo picks up as Sahibjaan gyrates in a suicidal dance of death, mirroring the opening sequence in which her mother was pirouetting in the light of a burning flame. Her bruised feet put an end to her career as a courtesan, but not before implying a happy ending.

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Aaj Hum Apni Duaon from Pakeezah (1972).

As Sahibjaan’s wedding procession leaves her abode, the sounds of the anklets fade, symbolising her freedom from the disreputable profession. A dancer observes that she is envious of Sahibjaan’s fortune. The music resumes, inaudibly featuring the anklets that will adorn the feet of another budding Sahibjaan.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.