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Syed Muthahar Saqaf
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Cinema “Mughal-e-Azam” tops the list of outstanding Hindi films of all times, in a poll conducted by a British Asian weekly newspaper. Syed Muthahar Saqaf

Steller castDilip Kumar with Madhubala.Photo: The Hindu Archives
Steller castDilip Kumar with Madhubala.Photo: The Hindu Archives

The grand centenary celebrations of Indian cinema have created lot of interest bothin India and abroad. The British Asian weekly newspaper, Eastern Eye , conducted a poll recently in connection with the celebrations and brought out a list of outstanding Indian movies of all times.

Filmmaker K. Asif’s 1960 epic, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ has outrivaled other Bollywood hits to bag the number one spot. The Dilip Kumar and Madhubala starrer beat off tough competition to edge out ‘Sholay’, which is at number 2, narrowly. ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ is third, ‘Mother India’ and ‘Awara,’ are fourth and fifth respectively. The survey’s outcome is the result of a combination of factors: audiences’ vote, taken via different social media platforms; box office collections; critical acclaim and impact.

Five decades after its release, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ is still considered a masterpiece, an epic love story, a cinematic gem and one of the biggest historical romances ever filmed. Still popular, the evocative drama was set against the backdrop of tumultuous historical events.

In the 100 years of Indian cinema, none could match the success of ‘Mughal-e-Azam.’ This feat has been attributed to several factors: the main ones being inimitable acting by stalwarts Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala; chaste Urdu dialogue in rhythmic mode, written by a team of writers led by Kamal Amrohi; immortal music by Naushad; innovative photography and camera work by R. D. Mathur; art direction by A. K. Sayyad and the opulent settings. The achievement speaks volume about the hard work and commitment of K. Asif.

Matchless movie

Praising the film, showbiz editor of Eastern Eye , Asjad Nazir, said, “Poetic dialogue, one of the greatest soundtracks ever produced, glorious costumes, lavish sets, a great story and big performances from a stellar cast combined to make this a perfect movie.”

Rs. 1.5 crores were spent to produce it, which was considered to be the most expensive film of that era. It took almost a decade and a half to complete it.

No stone was left unturned to make it grand. Outstanding craftsmen from different parts of India were employed. The best Delhi tailors were brought to Mumbai for designing the costumes of Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor) and Salim (Dilip Kumar), the delicate jewellery worn by Anarkali (Madhubala) was crafted by goldsmiths in Hyderabad, a silver artisan from Kolhapur created the royal crowns, ironsmiths from Rajasthan made the shields, swords, spears, dagger, armour and other war paraphernalia, designers from Surat wove the zardosi on costumes and the footwear came from Agra.

The sheesh mahal (palace of glasses), set up for the song ‘Pyaar kya to darna kya..,’ still dazzles. Its walls, pillars and the ceiling were inlaid with small, round mirrors with the help of artisans from Ferozabad. It took two years to build the set at a cost of Rs. 15 lakhs.

The film underlines the importance of justice and communal harmony. It is a tragic love story, where prince Salim, falls in love with the stunningly beautiful courtesan, Anarkali. This leads to a conflict between the defiant son and his father, the Mughal emperor, Akbar.

The film was based on Urdu writer Imtiaz Ali Taaj’s ‘play, ‘Anarkali. Taaj’s play inspired Shiraz Ali Hakeem, an enterprising producer. He joined hands with K. Asif to make this tale into a film.

Initially, the shooting began in 1946. But Asif faced a huge setback, when Hakeem decided to migrate to Pakistan after the partition. However, at his request, his close friend, rich businessman Shapoorji Pallonji, agreed to produce the film.

Asif had originally selected Chandramohan, Sapru, and Nargis for the lead roles. But the shooting had to be suspended for fiveyears, after Chandramohan died. Later, Asif dropped the entire team to re-select the fresh one of Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. The dedication of these actors was legendary and their powerful dialogue delivery received praise from all quarters.

The songs penned by lyricist Shakeel Badayuni to the classical and soulful music scored by Naushad remain evergreen.

For the rendering of Tansen’s ragas in Akbar’s court, K. Asif wanted Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. But the maestro refused saying that he did not want to lend his voice for movies. He later relented after a lot of persuasion by Asif and sang two songs, ‘Prem jogan ban ke sunderi’ and ‘Shubh din aayo.’ He had such a scintillating voice, that Asif paid him Rs. 25,000 for each song.

‘Teri mehfil mein kismat aazmakar..’ (Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and chorus); ‘Aye ishq ye sab duniyawale bekar ki baatein..’; ‘Mohabbat ki jhooti kahani pe roye..’; ‘Hamein kash tum se mohabbat na hoti..’; ‘Pyaar kya to darna kya..’; ‘Bekas pe karam kijiye..’; ‘Khuda nigehbaan ho tumahara..’ (all by Lata Mangeshkar); ‘Zindabad ai mohabbat zindabad..’ (Mohammad Rafi) carried the melodic fragrance of classical music and enthralled the listeners all over the world.

When ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was released on August 5, 1960 after 15 years of hard work, it instantly captivated audiences from all over the country and became a roaring success.

The film buffs of the country were in for a pleasant surprise, when the coloured version of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was brought out some years ago. It was a costly and time-consuming affair and the colourisation was done in England. But when this version was re-released on November 12, 2004, it re-created box office history. People flocked to the cinema halls to watch the magic unfold. This classic, made over 50 years ago, could still compete with the contemporary films.

Asif had originally selected Chandramohan, Sapru, and Nargis for the lead roles. But the shooting had to be suspended for fiveyears, after Chandramohan died.




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