Tuesday, June 27, 2006

the tabla kicks in

In the final, climactic song of Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi, 1971), the courtesan Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari) is invited to perform at her aristocratic (former) lover's mansion on his wedding night. He doesn't respond to the symbolic choreography of her performance, and Sahibjaan breaks a lamp and dances on the pieces of broken glass. Instead of the uncompromising floor, we have a soft white canvas on which her bloody footprints are projected. The diegetic music continues furiously, adding to the spectacle of her exorcism-through-dance.


Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Great stills, Mubarak! Everybody I hear about this film from seems to love it, can't wait to see it (maybe one day on the big screen).

So is the glass-dancing scene from Sholay a reference/homage/rip-off to Pakeezah? Or is the trope of the suffering dancer more entrenched than that? I haven't seen enough Bollywood or acquainted myself well enough with South Asian to know ...

1:44 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Interesting question, Zach. I haven't seen Sholay since my teenage years but I do remember the dancing-on-glass scene. I think it may well have been a reference to Pakeezah - it's hard to say since the circumstances in the films are different, but it did become a Bollywood cliche after Sippy's film. I think the dance in Sholay is more of a traditional plot device, existing for the the sadist villain (and for us, the spectators) before the hero saves the day, but the scene is more emotional and complex in Pakeezah, where Kumari wilfully, symbolically injures what had initially attracted her lover: her feet! And the film's universe supports her - no one stops her and the music continues.

Wish I had a less vague answer...

(By the way, Sholay is inexplicably being remade, with Bachchan recast as Gabbar Singh.)

8:28 AM  
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8:12 AM  

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