Pakeezah is thus an iconic film. It is the epitome of Muslim romanticism. It has delicacy and glamour. It has the Urdu language as one of its decorations, with songs which are poems, and dances which are a tribute to the art form itself. Its story belongs to a certain time, a certain culture and has a definite style; a style which owes everything to Lucknow; not the real, historical city but the city of Muslim imagination. It is a tribute to a culture which once reigned over north India with its rules of etiquette, its elaborate metaphors for transactions between the sexes, its opulence and its luxuriousness. Pakeezah, Meghnad Desai.
The Muslim Social-1961-1970
There is a lot that is modern in the 1960s in India. Even the films look outwards and are set in Tokyo, Paris, London and the like. There are exceptions however, and none more so than the Muslim socials of the 1960s. Almost all of them were based on a mythologised culture of andaaz and nazakat and feature a good deal of poetry - often composed and spoken by female characters - and Urdu dialogue. The costumes of these films influenced fashions, none more so than Mere Mehboob (still in pic 3). Especially the periodic revival of shararas and ghararas. And sitara work dupattas at the very least:)
There were outliers e.g. Dharmputra (pic 2), which dealt with partition but on the whole the films are light romances evoking a pre-partition culture. The other film which is an outlier is Pakeezah (pic 6). While arguably the pinnacle of the form, it is more of a 50s film that was taken up in the 1960s and finally screened in 1972. Its fame rests on many things, including its music. That music, while rooted in the culture the Muslim social tried to recreate, was so old-fashioned in the 1960s that its composer, Ghulam Mohammed, died in extreme poverty and obscurity in 1968 unable to find work*. Pakeezah itself had a tepid opening, its success and iconic status a result of Meena Kumari's death.
There were brief revivals in the 1980s (Umrao Jaan, Nikaah) but the 1960s was probably the last decade of the romantic films of the genre.
Other examples of the 1960s: Chaudvin ka Chand (pic 1), Mere Huzoor (pic 4), Gazal (pic 5), Benazir, Dil hi to hai, Palki.
Articles on Muslim socials: [X, X]
*His last film prior to Pakeezah, Shama was a 1961 film starring Suraiya.