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A classic resurrected in true colours

The famous "Mughal-e-Azam" is all set for Deepavali release. In its new digital avatar, K. Asif's black and white dream epic will appear in colour, says V. GANGADHAR.

A scene from "Mughal-e-Azam" ... in perfect shades.

GET READY to greet the new `avtar,' one of India's greatest movies, the late K. Asif's dream epic, "Mughal-e-Azam." All set for a Deepavali release, the new digital version will be in sparkling colour with Dolby sound system and changes in its music score.

The original, dealing with the immortal love story of Prince Salim and dancing girl, Anarkali, was released in 1960 in 150 theatres all over the country. At that time, Bombay's swanky new theatre, Maratha Mandir, organised a grand show for the new release, the film rolls were taken to the theatre on elephants to the accompaniment of shehnai music.

The film, a labour of love for producer-director K. Asif, was nine years in the making, the original cast of Nargis, Chandramohan and Sapru, being replaced with Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar.

Produced at a cost of Rs 1.5 crores, a huge sum in those days, it raked in Rs 3 crores in profits and was acknowledged as a classic. Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) became a cult figure. Love was the supreme message of the film and no wonder the song, "Pyar kiya tho darna kya" became a national favourite.

To add to the film's poignancy, there was the real life romance of the leading pair and the unrequited love of Madhubala. She was seriously ill throughout most of the shooting yet bravely carried on scenes where she had to walk weighed down with iron chains.

Hindi cinema was familiar with colour, Mehboob Khan's "Aan" and V. Shantaram's "Navrang" were colour films. But "Mughal-e-azam" whose shooting had begun in the early 1950s missed the colour era by a few years.

Determined to make the film, the most lavish spectacle on the Hindi screen, K. Asif did include two scenes in colour. Both song-and-dance sequences.

In a changing world, where the cost of entertainment did not count, the process of converting black and white classics into colour could not be delayed. And thus Asif's dream has come true.

Hollywood began the trend, and Bollywood followed suit never mind the cost. `Colouring' "Mughal-e-Azam" is expected to cost nearly Rs. 10 crores, and the job is being undertaken by the Indian Academy of Arts and Animation, which developed a customised software to accept the colour and match the original grey shades. Wrong colours are rejected. For instance, there was a coat of Dilip Kumar that needed to be coloured. Later the crew found it in the go-down and the colour was the same as that the computer had produced. The process is complicated and requires great skill.

Experts at IAA and Sterling Investments which financed the project explain how the conversion faced problems while colouring a red rose the heroine presented to Prince Salim. The Mughal era had not seen a hybrid red rose, it only had the original pink roses!

Naushad with his assistant Uttam Singh.

Intense restoration was also undertaken simultaneously. The frames were in a bad condition and manpower, effort and money in huge amounts were used to restore them so that colourisation could begin. Music has been upgraded for the colour version. Music director Naushad saab re-recorded all the songs though retaining the voices of the original singers. ``The original flavour has been retained,'' he assures music lovers.

The movie is not only about colourisation but is a complete revival, resurrection of the entire film.

How will the new version fare? Dilip Kumar saw the film in London and was pleased. ``I am sure the younger generation will learn to appreciate the film and also the new technology which had been used,'' he commented.

The film will face tough competition from Yash Chopra's romance with an Indo-Pak theme, "Veer Zaara" with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead and Amtiabh Bachchan playing a cameo. Another Deepavali contender is Subash Ghai's "Aitraaz." There is already speculation about who will score at the box office, the senior Khan (Dilip Kumar) or the current heart-throb. Shah Rukh Khan, a long time admirer of Diip Saab, laughs at the reports. ``Don't ever make these comparisons of films belonging to different eras,'' he told the media. ``And who in our industry can challenge the one and only Dilip Saab?'' Going by current trends, the remake of classics into colour will go on.

B. R. Chopra plans to release his 1964 black and white classic, "Naya Daur" by the year end. Another entrant to this process could be Guru Dutt's "Pyassa".

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