Pakeezah (The Pure of Heart, 1972, Dir. Kamal Amrohi)
This chapter focuses on the courtesan film in Indian cinema. The courtesan film has been popular with audiences for a long time but today it is rare to see a mainstream Indian film choosing to use the figure of the courtesan to address the concerns of women in society. An extension of the Muslim Social, the courtesan film reached its creative epoch in the 1970s, exhausting genre possibilities with the erotic spectacle Pakeezah (Pure of Heart, 1972). A complicated production, film-maker Kamal Amrohi took fourteen years to complete Pakeezah. Unfortunately for Indian cinema's tragedy queen, Meena Kumari, who starred in the film, alcoholism cut short her life, and she never got to see what many consider to be her most accomplished work. The chapter analyses Pakeezah from a range of critical perspectives, including the conventions, origins, and history of the courtesan film; the production history and struggle to finish the film; representations of the courtesan related to sexuality and eroticism; an analysis of the song and dance sequences and their relationship to ideology; and the demise of the courtesan film in the contemporary era.
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