It took 14 years for this film to be completed. To begin with, the film was launched in 1958, jointly planned by Kamal Amrohi and 'Meena Kumari'. It was launched in black-and-white, but when colour came in vogue, Amrohi scrapped those portions already shot and decided to start again. Later, Cinemascope came into vogue, and Amrohi acquired a Cinemascope lens from MGM and scrapped the plain colour portions too. Then Amrohi and Kumari separated in 1964, bringing filming to an indefinite halt. Finally, the film was resumed in 1968, and though by then Kumari was suffering from alcoholism and was in critical condition, she was still Amrohi's only choice and she agreed to complete the film.
Kamal Amrohi acquired a Cinemascope lens from MGM on a royalty basis for shooting the film. However, he detected a focusing error in the rush prints that had been missed by the cameraman and even the UK lab team that processed the film. On hearing of this, MGM instructed its Indian subsidiary chief not to collect any more royalty and gave the lens to Amrohi as a gift.
During the making of the film, composer 'Ghulam Mohammed' and cinematographer Josef Wirsching died, leaving director Kamal Amrohi at a loss. Eventually, though, composer Naushad was brought in to compose the background score; and after Wirsching's death, over a dozen of Bombay's top cinematographers stepped in as/when they had a break from their other assignments, and they maintained an even look.
When the film was resumed in 1968, several financiers asked Kamal Amrohi to replace the music with slightly trendier music. Amrohi said that he would have agreed, had 'Ghulam Mohammed' lived on, but he could not betray a dead man who had given him twelve beautiful songs. In keeping with the times, though, he kept only six songs in the film.
In 1958, Ashok Kumar had signed on to play the role of Salim, who was to be a businessman. When filming was resumed in 1968, Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt were considered for the role. When Raaj Kumar accepted the role, it was modified from a businessman to a forest ranger to match Kumar's rugged build. Ashok Kumar was still on, though now he was to play Hakim Saab; but he instead played Shahabuddin, while Hakim Saab was played by D.K. Sapru.
In 1972, veteran actor Pran turned down his Filmfare Award for Be-Imaan (1972), because while the Filmfare Best Music Award had gone to Shankar-Jaikishen for his own film Be-Imaan (1972), he felt that _Pakeezah (1971)_ had not been awarded on merit and that the late 'Ghulam Mohammed' was more deserving of that award.
Due to her ill health, Meena Kumari was not able to do the dance sequences herself. Hence 'Padma Khanna' (I) acted as a double for the purpose. She can be seen in all the long shots of dances in the movie.
Meena Kumari died two months after the film released. Until then, it had had a lukewarm response at the box-office, but afterwards it became a hit and acquired cult status. It also unfortunately acquired the unfortunate distinction of being considered as Kumari's last film.
In the end as Meena Kumari's doli is going away, there is a scene showing a girl looking on. Kamal Amrohi had explained the meaning of that scene is, the desire of that girl was that, she would like someone to take her out of that place, like Raaj Kumar took Meena Kumar out of that place, that was the meaning. When this film was complete the editor of this film had cut the scene showing the girl looking on as he thought it was unecessary. Kamal Amrohi when he saw that scene of the girl looking on is missing from the film, he requested the editor to put that scene again in the same and Kamal Amrohi told the editor, that he made the whole film for that one particular scene and the whole film is based on that one scene. The editor then added that scene back to the film.
After the shooting stopped in 1964, after some time, one day Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt happened to watch the rushes of Pakeezah, they like the film very much and they thought the film must be completed and relesased so the world to see. Sunil and Nargis Dutt tried to convince to Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari to come together for completing the masterpiece. They agreed. So Pakeezah was complited and released because of Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt. When the song ' mausam hai ashiqana ' was to be recorded at that time the music director Ghulam Mohammed was very ill and very weak, he could not go to record, a day before he requested Naushad to record it and he agreed, but the next day when the time to record approached Ghulam Mohamed was restless as he wanted to record the song himself, suddenly he got the streanth he got up from his bed set in the rikshaw and headed for the studio and got there in time to record the song, Naushad and everyone was supprised to see him, such dedication of. Ghulam Mohamed but he dint get award for pakeezah. The distributors had wanted Shanker-Jaikishan to compose the music. But Kamal Amrohi refused he said the songs composed by Ghulam Mohamed will remain in the film as before.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
A young girl from the kotha, her hand under her chin, watches wistfully as Salim's baraat arrives to take Sahibjaan away to a life of freedom, love and respectability. According to Tajdar Amrohi, son of director Kamal Amrohi, this girl was the true "Pakeezah" of the film. Kamal Amrohi's vision was mind-blowing - Sahibjaan's tale had a happy ending, and here was this young girl, trapped in the same world Salim was taking Sahibjaan away from, watching the baraat and hoping and dreaming of a baraat coming to take her away too. D.N. Pai, the editor, nearly cut off this shot as he deemed it irrelevant, and when Amrohi explained what she symbolized, he asked, "But who will understand that she is Pakeezah?" Amrohi replied that if even one person understood the concept, he would consider himself as being vindicated. Almost a year later, Amrohi received a letter from a man, asking him for a still of this girl, who he felt was the real Pakeezah. At this, Amrohi called up Pai and told him, "This man has seen my film!" He then sent the writer a letter of authority, stating that he would never be charged for watching the film anywhere in the country if he showed the letter to any cinema hall.