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Pakeezah: An Ode to a Bygone World - By Meghnad Desai (Book Review By Bobby Sing)
16 Feb, 2014 | Articles on Cinema / NOSTALGIA, BOOK REVIEWS, VINTAGE MAGAZINES & MORE

Pakeezah - Book Review By Bobby Sing

In 2009, a detailed article on many hidden facts about this magnificent masterpiece was posted at this site titled Pakeezah – A magnum opus & its unknown facts.The short write-up was a collection of interesting trivia around the making of this classic which I could recall reading in many articles, features and IMDB page of the film too. Then most recently in the celebration event of our 100 years of Indian Cinema (held in 2013 at Sri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi), I got to see the poetic expressions on the wide screen sitting among many enthusiastic lovers of Hindi Films and it was indeed a highly nostalgic, dream come true kind of an experience undoubtedly. The whole crowd simply loved the film straight from their hearts & celebrated the rare event cheering, clapping and appreciating each & every famous scene or song of the epic, forgetting everything else in those precious three hours of sheer ecstasy.
Hence remembering the same, when I got hold of this book specifically written on the film with an appealing title “PAKEEZAH - An Ode to a Bygone World”, I was excited enough to read it in only few sittings, but unfortunately didn’t find it as interesting as I was expecting personally. Perhaps I felt that way since I already knew and had written a complete article on almost all the unknown facts about the film in my own piece at the site long ago. Plus, the 150 page small book cannot be presented as the one completely focusing on the film PAKEEZAH alone as it does goes into various related subjects and talks about few other movies too at regular intervals, which take away the focus on the core subject repeatedly.
Admitting the truth, its actually quite difficult to write a book on such an ageless film released more than four decades before, especially when almost everyone in its team is no more to give his or her personal interviews remembering many on-shoot anecdotes & undisclosed facts related to its long making of almost 15 years. And that’s exactly the reason why one finds numerous unsure phrases used in the book like, One version of the story is, The story goes, One of the websites says, There is also an account though not reliable, It is said that, But not able to confirm, Other changes which were rumoured, A blog confirms and more in its different sections.
Moreover the book begins with an entire chapter telling you the scene by scene story of the film in short which doesn’t serve any clear purpose at all. And further there are chapters like the one on the film’s origin mentioning many other projects such as MUGHAL-E-AZAM, MAHAL & DAAERA, another on all the related themes like ‘Muslim Socials’, ‘The Lost Nawabi Culture”, “The Dancing Heroines, “The Tawaifs of Lucknow”, “The Exploitation of Women” & more. One of the last two chapters strictly talk about the life of writer-director Kamal Amrohi and other major stars featuring in the film individually. And then we have a just 12-13 pages chapter solely devoted to its music, lyrics and background score, which in my opinion should have been the longest chapter of the book to justify its inimitable melodious soundtrack.
So in case you are looking for many interesting happenings, anecdotes and revelations talking about the making of the film or its music extensively, then you are sure going to be disappointed. But still, it can be read especially by the present generation, who might be knowing very little about those people, their passion and that Golden Era of Hindi Films when movies were shot for years and that too without any bound script. Also the book does make you feel the irony when it tells you about the complex journey of its making & revival in the span of 15 long years, the sad personal split between Meena Kumar and Kamal Amrohi, the changes made to its story at various stages, the minute errors caught by the perfectionist director during its making with challenge, the wait to capture a perfect sunset till weeks and the most astonishing fact that the film didn’t get an encouraging response at all at its initial release till the tragedy queen suddenly left the world just after a few weeks.
In all, despite its shortcomings mentioned above, the book surprisingly remains the only one written on this great film till date and thus has an importance of its own being the first. Yet keeping in mind the wide variety of subjects discussed in it, I strongly feel that the title of the book should have been, “An Ode to a Bygone World – With Reference to PAKEEZAH” and not the other way round, to give a specific idea of its content to the eager readers. However, it did gave me one clear reason to thank its writer and his honest effort made whole heartedly, as it introduced me to another experimental & extraordinary film called DAAERA released in 1953 which I was not aware of before going through the book at all.
So if you are interested in reading about PAKEEZAH with reference to few other topics related to its basic theme, then do opt for this without expecting any detailed account of the iconic venture’s making or backstage stories. And then watch the film again after reading the book, to catch all those tricky shots, which you might have missed in all your earlier viewings of the gone years.
Pakeezah: An Ode to a Bygone World – By Meghnad Desai
Published by Harper-Collins India (2013) – Pages 152 (Small Size Paperback)
(For friends interested in reading my article on PAKEEZAH posted in 2009, the following is the link for the same)
Pakeezah - A magnum opus & its unknown facts. (Movies To See Before You Die - Love Theme) (Did You Know - 16)

Tags : Pakeezah: An Ode to a Bygone World By Meghnad Desai, Book Review By Bobby Sing, Film Book Reviews by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Must Read Books By Bobby Sing on Hindi Film Personalities and Bollywood, Articles on Cinema by Bobby Sing, Books on Cinema Reviews by Bobby Sing, Nostalgic Articles, Vintage Books
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