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 - e.g. 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.

Anonymous said: Hey u know ur post on umrao jaan Ada extract in English. Do u know where I can get the novel? Online ?

Hmm I am not sure. The one I used was a Khushwant Singh translation, if you click on the cover you can read a bit but I don’t think the entire novel is available.

I think this is a literal translation.

The 1960s child (Tamil magazine illustration, 1967).

A few cheeky boys-probably the Swami and Friends of the 1960s:)

The 1960s child (Tamil magazine illustration, 1967).

Girls’ frocks are really short in this decade.

lespourshariati said: so it is not at the same time as persian new year? Is that a zoarastrian distinction?

Hmm now I am a bit confused! And further confused by the wiki entry. I think Navroz is celebrated in March by Zoroastrians but the day after Pateti in August i.e. Parsi New Year is also referred to as Navroz.

I guess per the old calendar the spring new year is Navroz. But there is an additional one in August.

And it’s Krishna Janmashtami today.

Artwork of Yashoda and Krishna by BC Law, 1914. Original here.

Similar looking sari/upper drape here.

It’s Navroze aka Parsi new year today. Sal Mubarak!


eros-dikaios said: There does not seem to be any prudishness regarding the bra showing through the blouse, in my experience, which it often does!

That’s true, more often than not the bra is visible under the blouse. And while it is recent, in Raincoat Aishwarya’s character has the straying bra strap to indicate she is an ordinary housewife:)

redhester said: fascinating!

Quite so!

Perhaps more important than outerwear in India has been the impact of two parts of the Western wardrobe, namely underwear and nightwear.  The bra, the strange erotic and chaste garment of the twentieth century, has been widely adopted in India at all levels, and although not shown directly in films, the recent trend for the truss like Wonderbra has been all too obvious. In India, one traditionally slept in one’s day clothes, but now kaftans have become popular, along with a rise in Western-style nightdress/pyjamas or a T-shirt with a gown. Nightdresses are often featured in movies, to provide a certain eroticism, in particular as preludes to songs of the ‘dream sequence’ type. Rachel Dwyer, Fashion Cultures: Theories, Exploration and Analysis, Eds Stella Bruzzi & Pamela Church Gibson (2000).

Of Bras and Nightgowns: 1961-1970

Prior to imported bras and thereafter bras made in India, a simple bodice made of a light cotton or muslin was worn under the saree blouse (Pics 1 and 2, the latter a nicely realistic touch in Bhumika). It could have buttons or hooks for fastening or was sometimes like a crop top to be worn under the blouse.  While references to bras are there from early on  - Manto's stories for e.g. often refer to them - by the 1960s they seem far more common.  Maidenform for e.g. came to India in 1962 [X]. Perhaps its also the lighter blouse materials of the decade for bras are also far more evident on screen (Pics 3 and 4).

For nightgowns of the 60s [X, X]. And a bra ad from the 1960s.


1. Pic 1 in full is of a lovely looking lady, the pic taken in the 1950s is a good example of everyday wear in the decade. My grand aunts think the blouse material is akin to the dotted swiss popular at the time. 

2. According to my aunt, pubescent girls in South India even up until the 1950s wore a breast band (not dissimilar to the kanchuka) for a few years before graduating to the bodice of Pic 1.

3. My grandmother used to stitch her own bodices so I have seen a number of variations of Pics 1 and 2. She never switched to the bra even when her contemporaries did, according to her it ruins the figure:)

Miss India in the 1960s.

Although the contest dates back to the 40s, it seems more high profile in the 1960s with a sprinkling of a few famous names. There were two Miss India’s in any given year in much of the 1960s - the contest was run by Femina and Eve’s Weekly.  The decade also saw an Indian Miss World. 

In the pics: Mehr Mistry (1 and 4), Reita Faria who went on to win Miss World (2 and 3) and Persis KhambattaPersis’ pantsuit and hair has a bit of a 70s vibe but YSL had a pantsuit out in 1968.

[X] [X] [X]


Dil Apna aur Preet Parai (1960, dir. Kishore Sahu).

Meena and Raaj…excellent chemistry.

(Reblogged from lovingoldbollywood)
Meena Kumari’s birthday just went by (1 August) so a belated post for one of my favourite actors. 
If like me you can’t have enough of Meena: X, X, X and X.

Meena Kumari’s birthday just went by (1 August) so a belated post for one of my favourite actors.

If like me you can’t have enough of Meena: X, X, X and X.

The Churidar-Kameez Etc.: 1961-1970

The churidar-kameez - the iconic dress and silhouette of the 1960s.  And quite well documented too via a number of 1960s movies, most notably Arzoo and Waqt (Sadhana was definitely a fashion influencer of the decade given the number of trends she brought in). Though short kurtas were common in previous decades they were looser and paired with salwars. While the kurtas in the movies were sleeveless and skin-tight, most versions had sleeves and were looser [X, X, X] and often influenced by the 1960s mod shift as in the PIA uniforms of Pic 2

Slacks were common in the 60s too though seen more often in South Indian movies as on Kanchana (the most stylist South Indian actress of the decade) in Pic 6. More slacks as well as the short sari wrap from the film Athey Kangal. See also X, X.

And of course there were any number of Western dresses that were seen on screen including crop tops - apparently now a thing - as seen on Babita in pic 8. See also  Jab Jab Phool Khile. And X, X, X, X, X

eros-dikaios said: No, Dev Anand went shirtless in Baarish in 1957. And Raj Kapoor wore bathing trunks in Awara.

I see. Shirtless men of Bollywood through the ages is a post that needs to happen then!

The Men: 1961-1970

While the suit and hat was very much around as the hallmark of an urbane, city man (X, X, X), in the early decades of the twentieth century and even up until the 1950s Indian men often retained some form of traditional attire. Or like with the modern sari a lot of thought was given to a pan-Indian attire with elements like a shirt/kurta/achkan, dhoti/churidar and traditional headgear combined. By the 1960s, in the movies and in urban India, 60s fashions for Indian men were not very different from the West. The mood of the decade was youthful, the  patriotic fervour of the 30s and 40s had subsided to some extent and the films were looking outward with foreign locales being the norm - perhaps all of this played a role in the clothes the nation saw on its screens. 

Here’s a Joy Mukherjee fashion spread for e.g. [X] [X] (now wondering if the actor was the first Indian lead actor to go shirtless in Hum Hindustani, 1960!).

Also see JeetendraShammi Kapoor - note the dressing gown on Iftikhar which was a staple for the well dressed older guy, Pataudi, and the heroes of Satyajit Ray’s urban films [X, X]

The Actors: 1. Biswajeet 2. Shammi Kapoor 3. Joy Mukherjee 4. Jeetendra 5 & 7. Shashi Kapoor 6. Rajendra Kumar 8. Ravichandran.