Revisiting The Oeuvre of Bazaar-e-Husn

There aren’t many works of cinematic art that become cinematic in their own right. The legacy of these works transcends what is projected on the screen and venture into the arenas of popularity that was quite unintended by the creator itself.

Pakeezah, a Hindi Cinema classic that took almost 15 years to complete, is one such movie whose legacy is unparalleled and finesse unmatched. The fervour around the film was as much due to the stories that revolved around each and every person associated with it as the climactic plot of the film itself.

The journey of making Pakeezah is no less of an odyssey for its director Kamal Amrohi and the lead actress Meena Kumari. They both were in the romantic company of each other both during the commencement and the conclusion of the film, however, going through a judicial separation and an alleged extra-marital affair in between. As much as I would love to delve more into the depths of this theme, the main focus of this work is rather centred upon one of the most intelligently designed sets from the movie – Bazaar-e-Husn.

Translated as a ‘fair of beauty’, Bazaar-e-Husn reflects the budgetary prowess of Pakeezah’s production. Often termed as a perfectionist, Kamal Amrohi had to shed almost a million rupees to build a perfect settlement for a desired reality of erstwhile Muslim royality.

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The set for Bazaar-e-Husn took six months to complete with over 600 men working on it. A publicity material for the film described it as:

“There is nothing make believe in this set. Dozens of genuine shops from the various parts of the country were bodily shifted to the set to lend it the authenticity it demanded. These shops remained on the sets for more than a year involving a payment of huge compensation to their owners. Nothing so fantastic was ever attempted or achieved in a single film.”

Despite involving investment of such magnitude, the set has only been used for just one dance sequence in the entire movie. Since the plot of the movie shifts from Delhi to Lucknow, the only display of Bazaar-e-Husn that we get to see is during the opening mujra of Sahibjaan in Inhi Logon Nai. Despite having such a brief presence, the choreography of Inhi Logon imbued with the charm of Meena Kumari, makes the scenic experience of the establishment quite unforgettable.

In the only dance sequence where the glimpse of Bazaar-e-Husn is shown, we can see the flavour of the tawaif (courtesan) culture of Delhi in its maturity. As Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari) is performing her teasing dance number, we can see a lot of motion behind her that manifests itself as daily routine at such establishments. We can see parallel mujras being performed at other courts and commodities such as betel nuts, ornaments and fruits being sold. Despite the commotion in the streets, one finds it really difficult to take his eyes off from the leading lady and take a moment to ponder upon the life at Bazaar-e-Husn. However, as a myriad of vivacity and vividness, Bazaar-e-Husn not just beautifully merges with the choreography of the mujra but goes on to enhance the aesthetics of it. It provides it with a context that paints a picture in the viewer’s conscience which is like a medieval portrait of a desired escape.

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Apart from the monetary shelling, a lot of artistic capital also went on to contribute to the making of this enchanting establishment. Hundreds of dancers were specifically trained for months just for the picturization of that brief mujra sequence of Inhi Login Ne. This not only gives us a glimpse of Kamal Amrohi’s traits of perfection but also goes on to expose his tremendous respect for the art that he intended to pursue.

If Pakeezah was Amrohi’s dearest creation, Bazaar-e-Husn would undoubtedly be his most vivid fantasy. As the making of the movie saw no signs of completion, and while being intertwined in a personal turmoil, Amrohi never shed a single shade of doubt on his brainchild. In an interview which he gave to Time Magazine for the project that he had penned, directed and also intended to act in, he said –

‘Jab tak Pakeezah khatm nahi ho jaati, tab tak mujhe maut bhi nahi aayegi’

(Even death is waiting for me to finish Pakeezah)

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Pictures: National Film Archives of India

Found in Escapes

What if I seek light in
This night.
Flicker lights falling upon my
Cheek, glistening a part of it, a part
Still left hidden.
What if I seek journey here
Sitting at a deserted bus stand, who
Uses them anyway? Maybe,
Some adventures are good untravelled
What if I seek dance in
The still trees and fully
Blossomed but burdened petals
Of this red red flower, Maybe
Some emotions are best unspoken
Nothing has
Broken down in this part of
The world. The passers by
Still passing, the pretentious
Still talking
What if I seek forgiveness in
This waning crescent moon,
This stillness, this halt
This long drawn silence is not
Here to stay forever,
But it’s still mine
So I don’t see anything moving
But my memories, Maybe
Some notes are better unplayed
Some songs,
Better unsung.

 

Picture: It’s me trying to discover Fort Kochi

Lyrics

Seldom songs will just be played
When it’s not the music
That we need, but
The words.
I would want your love, laying
Right at that couch, in
The living room.
I would want that touch, not
For I need what love gives
But to realise,
All what it failed to make
Of our lives.

 

Picture : Well, that’s me chilling at the beautiful coastal city of Kochi

14

before there were prints on my fingers
—-or nails to clutch or a
——————name for any of it,
when my hair was still shifting
—-and waiting to hatch from
——————-an uncooked skull,
when i did not have an unbent
—-spine, there was a red and
——————–hollow
space between the rows of empty seats
—-and you were coming there and
————————-i grew legs
when you stepped
—————on my feet

——————————————–and
the whole world began when
our empty eyes turned
full of each other.

Letter from NY to her, the unbeliever in California

The broken Vs of the too-late geese
leave space for the gone ones which
would have blackened the sky.
This is the season of flight.

I did go to California, you know.
More than once
I walked on warm dirt,
up firm mountains which were neither Greek nor tragic
but were blessed with enough rain to let the grass grow
and the salmon run and the fires eat away the dead.
Each time I left for California
I was skeptical that I would arrive there.
Hasn’t it always been the horizon,
almost visible, always distant?
Riding in strange vehicles with strange men and women
I would consider the myths which had encased it in my mind;
free gold, free land, legendary freedom.
How unlikely, I would think,
and begin to plan my escape back north,
where the fog and the chill
and the lonely streets and the silence
were all very real.
We are different, however,
because when I finally set foot on the shocking red earth there
I believed in its mundane reality, knew I had arrived,
however temporarily, however unfree.

This is the season for learning
to grit the teeth with love.
For remaining joyful while solitude is blowing thru;
for coming together in our God-given loneliness.

In California I was alone with the place
and with my love for it.
My mind was clean and stark,
hopeful, and I thought that when I returned
I could bring some of it back,
like an image from a dream carefully penned upon waking.
But the place where we are will not accept sun or sand
or promises which all seem mythical.

So I am glad for you to be there,
disappointed and not surprised that you can’t send proof of its persistence.
That kind of word doesn’t come here this season,
and right there is the question,
and I don’t know the answer.

body-without-organs

my bones fly out around me,

disheveled, pricked by wind, in pain,

and I stand back unshocked.

I read of it in mystic reports,

gossip columns well-known not for veracity,

but for imagination and an odd sense of familiarity.

 

I have not met my limbs,

but am told of them by

unreliable, unquestionable agents

who circle like missionaries or salesmen,

grinning madly, waving charts written

in a new language which they must teach me,

which I learn, which breaks my body

in new ways around a cruel grammar

of cause, effect, and change.

 

a dictionary of differences, my body

is an unhappy monument to conflict,

a final scrap of the world before dead peace.

my body will no longer abide the terrible

machinery of discordant striving,

it will grow desperate and unify,

pull parts together across blind space,

it will step beyond organs, single.

it will become alone.

 

my body will adopt all witnesses

and discover a ruinous temple built beyond praise.

and it will cry out, alarmed, friendless,

and scatter itself abundantly,

once more disunited,

attempting to forget.

 

all worlds are

smoke hanging

out of sight.

in the swimming pool

i remember in the swimming pool,
feeling my erection press
against her twelve-year-old body.

she wanted me to hold her
and carry her. i was small and weak
but the water made it easy.

so i pulled her lithe and bony
limbs closer, cat eyes blinking,
flat moonpale chest slippery
and dappled in the summer sun.

soft as milk her voice came through my ear
(don’t say she didn’t know what she was doing)
while that arm snaked around my neck
and fingers crawled into my hair.

my cock taut and nervous
as i set her down there
and wondered what she wanted,
kissing her to make it stop.

my mother stomped through the grass
and pressed hands to hips firmly,
shouting: Come on in! It’s time for dinner.

we hopped the fence and ducked the clothesline,
stepped inside to hold hands
under the table.

Spacecase

Spacecase cased space
for time just in case
there was placed Spacecases place
in places in space on paths untraced
by other mortal hands and eyes.
Longitudinal and lateral symmetry
that as much as Spacecase tries
can’t be traced through space by eyes.
Tired, tired, burning bright
like twice burning candles in the night.
What Spacecase hand or eye
could trace such fantastic symmetry?
Only unto the place he dies
and closes Spacecase’s tired eyes.
He won’t go gently into that night,
tired candle at both ends
—-____burning bright
in spaces cased untraced.

 


 

This is a guest post by Jesse Muse. Part time poet still living in upstate New York. So… Bucket does the Bucket dance.

reduce/redux

when i was sixteen she
brought him into my
basement he
was so
new.

she asked my permission
and i asked his then
she took off his
belt and she
strangled
him.

after graduation
my parents gave me
dark looks but they
couldn’t talk
about
it.

one time my father found
the pictures he said
it’s not normal
you should choose
friends your
age.

she said would you please rape
me I will fight back
but you can’t stop
no matter
what I
say.

i said those must be good
cookies then she took
a knife into
the bathroom.
those doors
lock.

you have to marry her
(he was desperate)
she’s killing me
he cried. i
remained
mute.

her period was late
i said how late she
said three hours.
a funny
story
now.