Romance v/s Drama:The story travels two eras immortalized by love letters. The first is written by Nargis to Shahabuddin on her death bed and soaked in tears and it reaches Ashok Kumar 17 years later by which time Shahabuddin has searched for Nargis everywhere unaware that was wilting away in a graveyard. The second is by Salim who accidentally invades into a train compartment and is enamored by the sleeping Meena Kumari’s beautiful feet. He leaves a note at her feet which Sahibjaan preserves in a locket clipped into her hair. The letter and the book mark borrowed from Meena Kumari’s diary pages by Raaj Kumar is the foundation of a heady romance. There is ample drama when the lovers meet accidentally, part and meet again and Raaj Kuumar sails her into moonlit night and introduces her to the priest as ‘Pakeezah’.
Images v/s Echoes:The film is all about haunting images and echoes. The whistling train is a recurrent motif piercing through dramatic moments in the film. The protagonist seeks refuge from the train and describes herself as a traveler without destination. The film is laced with echoes of ghungroos, thumris, alaaps. Kamal Amrohi transforms every frame into a painting; a pink shikara sailing on a quiet stream attacked by enraged elephants is a volatile moment, also the sudden storm, flying window panes, a screaming bird in a swaying gold cage and a poisonous snake deliberately left lose into the room.
Bhawana Somaaya/ @contact @bhawanasomaaya.com