Kamal Amrohi's Pakeezah represents one of Indian cinema's shimmering musical milestones. It was the composer Ghulam Mohamed's final score. Playback queen Lata Mangeshkar was the voice of the courtesan Sahib Jaan, played by tragedienne Meena Kumari, who incidentally passed away shortly after the film's release, resulting in scores of film-goers flocking to cinema theatres as if to pay obeisance at her mazaar, according to the late actress, Nadira. Naushad has provided this film with a background score that is much less feted but includes some exquisite thumri numbers and ghazals by singers like Rajkumari, Vani Jairam, Begum Parveen Sultana and Naseem Bano Chopra.
In some scenes, like when Sahib Jaan visits her childhood friend Bibban (Vijay Laxmi), Kamal Amrohi weaves in some brilliant thumri melodies as some kind of intricate ambient sound... some of which can be heard in the video below. Have a look, and listen hard. There are many riffs that seem to waft in from the neighboring kothas, and maybe a more enterprising viewer can help us identify every lost melody.