MUGHAL-E-AZAM (1960), is arguably Indian Cinema’s greatest epic immortalized not just for its grandeur, extravagance and opulence but for its brilliance as a ‘Movie Par Excellence!’ The supremacy of the movie can be gauged from the fact that when the movie was re-released in its color version in 2004, surprisingly, it recreated the same magic at the box-office that it created in the 60’s. What’s most stunning is that the color version too celebrated Silver Jubilee (25 weeks consecutive run) which has become a rarity since over two decades in Bollywood.
Akbar Asif, son of K. Asif (Director of the film MUGHAL–E–AZAM), in an interview confessed that he was overwhelmed by the movie’s success as he had never dreamt of 21st century generation audience applauding the movie to such an extent! The major attraction of the movie was the famous Sheesh Mahal on which the most popular song Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya….was picturized.
Table of Contents
MUGHUL –E AZAM is a tragic tale of the fated love affair between the Mughal Prince Salim, ( Dilip Kumar) and the enchanting courtesan, Anarkali,( Madhubala). Salim’s obsession for Anarkali is so frenzied that he wages a war against his father, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar (Prithiviraj Kapoor). The emotional conflict between father and son laced with mind blowing dialogues make the movie a milestone. Remember the lines …
Dilip Kumar: Taqdeeren badal jaati hain, zamaana badal jaata hai, mulkon ki tareekh badal jaati hain, shahenshaah badal jaate hain – magar is badalti hui duniya mein mohabbat jis insaan ka daaman thaam leti hai, woh insaan naheen badalta. (Destinies change, times changes, history of nation’s changes, Emperors changes, but in this ever-changing world, a person whose hand has been held by love – that person never changes.) Prithiviraj Kapoor: Magar tumhen badalna hoga,Salim,tumhen badalna hoga! (But you will have to change, Salim, you will have to change!)
The highlight of the dialogues is the rich blend of puns, phrases and idioms beautifully amalgamated into lucid Urdu that spellbound the audience. Kudos to the team of writers Amanullah Khan, Ehsan Razvi, Kamal Amrohi and Vajahat Mirza, who deservedly won the Best Dialogue Filmfare award. Eminent writer and poet Javed Akhtar admiring the dialogues had once commented that the dialogues deserve to be incorporated in academy studies at college level!
For Bollywood buffs the transcript of the dialogues are available in a book titled ‘The Immortal Dialogue of K. Asif’s MUGHAL-E-AZAM’ by Nasreen Munni Kabir and Suhail Akhtar. The dialogues are printed in Urdu as well as Hindi and Roman scripts, accompanied by an English translation.
Booted Out at Filmfare Awards Despite 8 Nominations
Besides landmark dialogues the superlative performance of lead actors Prithiviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala leaves the audience dumb folded. However readers would be stunned to know despite such marvelous performances both Prithiviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar were not even nominated for Filmfare Awards, forget winning the awards!!!
Madhubala was just nominated but the award was given a little known actress Bina Rai in the film GHUNGHAT. Even the exceptional director K Asif, who pumped all his energy into the movie to make it a milestone by slogging for finer nuance in every department of film making from grandeur sets, background music, performance to the movie’s mammoth publicity, was ignored the Best Director award, despite nomination. The award was given to Bimal Roy, for his middling movie PARKAH. Have you ever heard the name???
Out of 8 nomination the movie won just one popular award i.e. Best Picture and two technical awards viz. Best Cinematography and Best Dialogues.
Naushad’s Anger Against Filmare’s prejudice in Awards Distribution
Same was the fate of music maestro Naushad who was just nominated for his career’s most exceptional music but the award was awarded to Shanker Jaikishen for their mediocre music in DIL APNA AUR PREET PARAI.
Reacting to the prejudice in awards Naushad in an interview confessed, “I have never given much importance to awards but when I was declined award in ‘MUGHAL-E-AZAM’ I was most hurt the reason when Asif Sahab offered me the movie he had told me this movie is your acid test because you have to suppress the music of ANARKALI, which had the same subject and had released earlier. The movie’s songs had created phenomena hence it was a challenge that I took happily to prove me credentials and Allah ne karm bhi kiya sare gane maqbool hue (God blessed me as all the songs proved chartbusters).”
Prithivraj Kapoor’s Selection and His Dedication to The Role
Going down memory lane readers would be astounded to know that the film was initially planned in the late 1940’s, with Nargis and Sapru as the lead pair and Chadramohan as the great emperor Akbar. The role of Durjan played by Ajit in the original was supposed to be played by Himalaywala. However due to partition the movie was delayed for four long years. Asif restarted his project with a complete new cast as the actor playing Akbar; Chandermohan had expired creating new problems to Asif. Nevertheless Asif roped in Prithiviraj Kapoor to play Akbar.
Prithviraj Kapoor played the character of Mughal emperor Akbar with such excellence that viewer for once felt the great monarch had come to life on the silver screen!!! But few know to live his character so effectively; Prithviraj Kapoor had to pay a heavy price.
It’s reported when K. Asif approached him in mid 50’s, Prithviraj Kapoor was a salable star with a muscular built but Akbar’s character demanded a ‘gigantic and bulky figure’. Hence Prithviraj was in tight-corners, because if he put weight meant committing ‘harakari’ to his blooming career. Yet the actor went ahead, as more then the shine of money, his inner conscience mattered more for the actor in him. Thus to get into the shape of the mighty emperor, he began taking rich and fatty foods. Within months he was ready to take on the attire of Mughal emperor.
And what’s more… to bring authenticity into his each scene Prithviraj used to arrive on sets hours before the shooting. And closing his eyes he would meditate chanting “ om….om….om…” until he got himself absorbed in the character!
Truly, an eye-opener for present generation of actors who hop from one studio to another in pursue of — NO not perfection — but MONEY!!!!
K.Asif’s Eye for Perfection
Speaking about the time span it took over 17 years to complete the movie. It’s reported many times the producer Shapoorji Pallonji, a diamond business tycoon, would curse Asif for the delay and threaten to abandon the movie. Recalling a film historian said, “It is true Shapoorji was utterly annoyed at Asif for the delay but each time after quarrelling over the finance, Asif would flatter Shapoorji with the trails shots and cajole him to arrange finance.”
Asif was so zealous about the movie and its details that he did not compensate on a single frame. It’s reported he hired the best of the best in each department of film making. For the Tansen song he paid a whopping Rs 25,000 for a single song to legendary Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali, when ordinary singer charged a Rs 150 to Rs 200 per song during that time; for the Kathak song Mohe Panghat Pe Nandlal Chhed Gayo Re… Asif opted for country’s top notch Katha master Lachchu Maharaj and paid him handsomely as he too like Bade Gulam Ali was reluctant to choreograph the song for a movie; the costume was switched in Delhi and embroidered in Surat, jewellery and weapons was hired from the real nawabs of Hyderabad and Kolapur, shoes from Agra. In fact for the battle scene he took the service of real soldiers Indian Army and the battle scene alone cost him about Rs 1.5 Lakh and over three months shooting.
The Hidden Tale of Sheesh Mahal
Few are aware why Asif created such a regal set and insisted the producer to shot the song in Technicolor. According to reports when Asif resumed the shooting of MUGHAL-E-AZAM’ with a new star cast in the early 50’s, the plot of his movie was leaked out and Filmistan Production, a major production company of that era, had plagiarized the subject and made the movie ANARKALI staring Pradeep Kumar, Bina Rai and Mubark (played Akbar). The movie was released in 1953 and turned a potboiler with its music becoming a rage. Hence distributors began backing out from Asif’s ‘MUGHAL-E-AZAM’.
To lure the distributors Asif designed a set that left them dumbfounded. The set erected at the cost of Rs. 15 lakhs was 35 feet high, 80 feet wide and 150 feet long and dazzled with imported glasses brought from Belgium.
Asif was inspired by the Sheesh Mahal built by emperor Shahjahan in Lahore. Art director A. K. Sayyad deserves kudos for recreating its replica so marvelously. It’s reported that it took over two years to complete the Mahal that was dexterously inlaid with multi color mirrors on walls, pillars and the ceiling with the assistance of expert artisan specially brought from Ferozabad. When the set was ready it dazed the onlookers and left them in awe.
After the shooting the set was preserved at Mehboob studio in Mumbai for over six months and was kept for exhibition for spectators who came from all over India and foreign countries. There was an intense desire not to dismantle the set but the set had to be dismantled as it occupied a huge space of the studio.
And what’s more during the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema last year MUGHAL-E-AZAM topped the list of outstanding Indian movies of all times conducted by the British Asian weekly newspaper, Eastern Eye. MUGHAL-E-AZAM out beat SHOLAY that came at second position, while DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE’, ‘MOTHER INDIA’ and ‘AWARA’ came third fourth and fifth positions respectively.