MUGHAL-E-AZAM: An Immerse into the Epic

“मैं  हिंदुस्तान हूँ, हिमालय मेरी सरहदों का निगेहबान है, गंगा मेरी पवित्रता की सौगंध, तारिख की फ़िदा से मैं अंधेरों और उजालों का साथी हूँ, और मेरी हाथों में संगमरमर की चादरों में लिपटी ये इमारतें  दुनिया से कह रही हैं की ज़ालिमों ने मुझे लूटा और मेहरबानो ने मुझे सवारा, नादानों ने मुझे ज़ंजीरें पहना दी और मेरे चाहने वालों ने उन्हें कांट फेंका

That’s how the epic movie MUGHAL-E-AZAM starts. What would be your reply, if someone asks you to name the greatest Bollywood movie of all time. Well, there are many and I am sure the majority of answers would be revolving around SHOLAY and DDLJ. I would personally also add the likes of 3 IDIOTS and GANGS OF WASSEYPUR to the list of the above two. But, today I am going to talk about an epic, which I am sure many would miss out on…MUGHAL-e-AZAM. The movie stars Madhubala, Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor. Despite how simple the story seems, there are multiple elements in the story that makes the whole experience all very special. So, come on let’s immerse into this DASTAAN-e-Mughal-e-Azam.

K ASIF: The Architect

Karimuddin Asif. This man was the architect of this masterpiece coming into life. Manto said about Asif that his narration itself makes the audience visualize everything. He was a completely involved and passionate person. It took him 14years to make the movie and 9years to film it. He never lost hope even when shooting got stalled and no hope seemed near. He managed the producers, the music, the sets, the actors, everything. He directed only two movies in his life…Phool and Mughal-e-Azam. But, somehow one of them immortalized him into the history of Indian Cinema.

His dedication can only be understood by the fact that he walked barefoot on hot sand along with the camera just because Prithviraj Kapoor had to do that and his feet had got burns. His vision was so clear that when Dilip Kumar complained one of his dialogues being weaker than that of Prithviraj Kapoor, Asif straightaway refused saying “I am making Mughal-e-Azam and not Saleem-e-Azam”. Throughout the film, despite all the delays, he never for once changed his contract or asked for any increment, while on the other hand, everybody else did that. Because for him, it was not just a movie, it was his dream, his mission, his life. He invested his sweat, his money and much of himself into its making. But, little did he know that he was setting a new benchmark in the history of Indian Cinema.


Anarkali the Play

It all started with a play. Imtiaz Ali ‘Taj’ wrote the play ‘Anarkali’ in 1922, but it was considered quite ahead of its time then, and people didn’t like it much. Coincidence panned out such that in the very same year, on 14th June in the Itawa district of Uttar Pradesh, the man K Asif was born. Maybe the story needed Asif’s vision and style and he was born. He saw the play 22 years later and straightaway made it the mission of his life to portray the story into a movie.

‘Anarkali’ has been a character that has attracted the interests of many greats. Rabindranath Tagore wrote her story in Bangla and Firaq Gorakhpuri did the Urdu translation of that. But, what really completes the cycle here is that, after starting as a play, then becoming a movie, and then returning back as play. Yes, it still runs as a play in Delhi. And, every time it is played, the makers make sure that the canvas and scale are huge as an ode to the movie. Now, that’s what we can call a complete circle of Life.

How the Film Started

He planned on making the film with his friend Shiraz Ali Hakim and initially signed Chandramohan (as Akbar), DK Sapru (as Saleem) and Nargis (as Anarkali) in the lead roles. The movie started in 1946 at the Bombay Talkies studios. Now, in 1947, fortunately, India became independent but unfortunately, the partition too happened. Now, Shiraz was a supporter of Jinnah and he started getting a lot of negativity here and had to go to Pakistan. Now, the whole film was left hanging in a cliffhanger. Imagine, if it would have got shelved then. But, the movie again resumed in 1952 by Asif and now the producer had changed.

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“इन्हें मत देखिये शहज़ादे, इनमे कनीज़ की सेहमी हुई हसरतों के सिवा और कुछ नहीं…..

भूल जाओ की तुम एक कनीज़ हो और सलीम को इनमे वो देख लेने दो जो तुम्हारी जुबां कहने से डरती है…..

मेरी आँखों से मेरे ख्वाब न छीनिये शहज़ादे”

What could have the Cast look like?

Though Asif wanted Chandramohan only to continue as Akbar, unfortunately, he had lost his eyes in a road accident. For the role of Saleem, Asif initially wasn’t interested in Dilip Kumar when he started, as he was very thin at that time. Asif said that “He has the fire and may play the role 10 years later, but currently he is not ready.” Again coincidence paved out as after the movie resumed, Dilip Kumar seemed perfect for the role to Asif.

But, the real issue arose when Nargis refused to play Anarkali after the movie resumed. Now, Asif started his search for a dream girl to play the role. Advertisements were run throughout the newspapers but no one looked apt. Coincidence again played its game and Madhubala who didn’t have good relations with Asif at that time, herself came to him and asked for the role. Finally…Asif, Saleem and the whole country got its one and only ANARKALI.

Music: An Immortal Album 

There is no doubt in saying that music was the epitome of this film and Asif too knew this. So, he went to Naushad Ali with a bag of notes and asked him for a musical masterpiece. Naushad initially got angry at the showcase of money power, but later agreed after Asif’s apology. After that, Asif wanted to portray Tansen as singing the song. Asif and Naushad went to Ghulam Ali, but he wasn’t interested and said he is not interested in films. He intentionally faked his fees and said if they want him, his fees would be 25000 (the top singers got some 300-500 at that time). Surprisingly, Asif straightaway presented 10,000 in a pinch to him in advance and Ghulam Ali was left with no other option.

The epic song “Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya” is the ‘Soul’ of the movie in my opinion. And, why not, it went on to become the ‘Love Anthem’ for all the rebellious lovers. If we look at the trivia, it was selected by Naushad Ali after rejecting 150 songs and the song itself cost 10 lakhs. It took a whole night for Shakeel Badaion and Naushad to lyrics and pour them into music. Here is an interesting trivia as well, this song was sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the bathroom of the studio as she wasn’t getting the right echo in the studio. Another song Mohabbat Zindabad was sung by a chorus of 100 singers along with Mohammad Rafi. In another beautiful song from the movie Mohe Panghat Pe, Anarkali had to do kathak, but Madhubala was not a trained dancer. So, Lacchu Maharaj took the charge and choreographed with such perfection that Madhubala never seemed an untrained dancer.

Rishi Kapoor on Twitter: "For the film “Mughal-e-Azam” aficionados. A rare off the shoot picture with the acclaimed Italian director Roberto Rossellini with Mr. K. Asif and his actors." / Twitter

Sets: A Heavy Milestone Setting Canvas

Another thing that made the movie so epic was the huge and costly Canvas that was used in this film. Asif was very passionate about replicating the Sheesh Mahal. For this, heavy sets were constructed at Lahore made up of glass. This glass was not simple, but extremely expensive and delicate specially imported from BELGIUM. There is an interesting instance during Eid, the movie finance Shapur Ji Mistri came with some gold coins and 1 lakh rupees as ‘Eidi’ for Asif. But, Asif straightaway handed back the 1 lakh to him and asked him to use this for importing his glass from Belgium.

But, the story didn’t end there. The glasses were actually reflecting a lot of lights, so to counter that the glass walls were coated with wax and bright clothes. In addition to this, 500 Trucks were used to keep the set lighted and bright using their flashlight. Even the costumes were used to be borrowed from the museum to match historical precision. Also, the sets took months to be constructed.

A Story in Mixed Colour

Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) was India’s first colour film and in 1955, colour films became a common trend. So, Asif too shot some portions of the movie in ‘techno colour’ including the Epic ‘Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya’ song. He was so impressed by his product that he wanted to reshoot the whole film in techno colour. But, the film was very delayed by now and the budget too was gone out of control budget. So, the movie was uniquely released in half colour and half black-and-white.

Real and Reel Emotions

While the move took so long, everybody was having changes in their personal lives. Other than Dilip Kumar and Madhubala’s relationship, Asif too got married to Akhtar Begum, the sister of Dilip Kumar who was not happy with this. Dilip Kumar tried to mediate during some differences between the married couples, but Asif straightaway told him “Keep your stardom away from my house”. Dilip Kumar was so angry about this that neither he went for the movie preview nor watched the movie anytime soon. (he watched it only after 10 years post its release).

Mughal-e-Azam -

हमारा हिंदुस्तान तुम्हारा दिल नही, वो लौंडिया जिसकी मल्लिका बने

तो मेरा दिल भी कोई हिंदुस्तान नहीं जिसपे आप हुकुमत करें”

Madhubala and Slaps

There is a scene where Anarkali has to be slapped by Saleem out of frustration. Now, I know it is giving the sexist and misogynist vibe of Kabir Singh. But, there are interesting instances regarding the scene. Actually, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were in a relationship in real life as well. But, Madhubala rejected Dilip Kumar’s proposal under family pressure. So, Dilip Kumar was not able to slap her hard and Asif had to come and slap Madhubala. Then, Dilip Kumar filmed the scene and slapped her really hard. So, everybody got scared that Madhubala will leave the sets. But Asif went to Madhubala and told her in a low voice that “He still loves you, no one other than a true lover can do this”.

The Spiralled Budget

Other than the long duration that the movie took, one more thing it will be remembered for its extremely high budget. The whole movie was made in 1.5 crores when it hardly took 1lakh for a movie to be made. Due to this huge budget, the producers had to incur huge loans. Even Asif was hugely in debt. One of the producers had to even mortgage his property for the film to continue. The movie producer Shapoor Ji even thought of changing the director and bringing Sauraabh Modi on board. But, Asif straightaway said that “It is my film and I have made these sets, so if anyone dares to enter these sets, I will break his legs”.

After some time, when it was asked from him, why did he still trust Asif, he replied “Despite, whatever money he has asked for…he is utmost honest and has invested everything he got solely into the movie…he still lives in a rented house, travels in a taxi and borrows cigarettes to smoke”. When Asif first approached him, he told him “You will learn in thousands and lakhs if you invest in thousand in lakhs. But my movie needs crores, so be prepared to earn in crores”. Well, not just did the movie earn crores but also earned lots and lots of love, praise and respect.

Behind The Scenes- Mughal E Azam. K. Asif's Mughal-E-Azam is considered… | by Bollywoodirect | Medium

Some Mindboggling Facts from the Movie:

  1. The war scenes were shot with the help of the Indian Army. Not only did Asif take permission from the then defence minister Krishna Menon, but Menon himself was present at the time of the shooting. Also, many elephants were blinded for this as they used to get uncontrolled hearing gunshots (I know it’s very painful to hear).
  2. Adahullah Khan, the father of Madhubala used to be present there on the sets throughout the shooting. Asif was very irritated by this. The real problem arose when romantic scenes had to be shot between Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. So, Asif used a trick and used one of his men to keep Adahullah Khan busy playing poker (a game Khan loved) and intentionally lose every game.
  3. The movie was extremely popular in Pakistan also. Actually, people from Pakistan used to come taking visas to watch this movie, including Pakistan’s cricket captain Fazal Mahmood. Interestingly, special arrangements were made for them and they were given special tickets (without standing in a queue) for the movie.
  4. The shooting of the song ‘Mohe Panghat’ was watched by the then Chinese President XiJuan Lai, famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (who later became Pakistan’s prime minister) was so madly in love with the song that he used to daily come at the set to listen to it.
  5. There is a very interesting story regarding a particular dialogue of Anarkali that she had to say to Akbar before leaving for death. While everyone was confused and some greats were just presenting their ideas. Wajaad Mirza Sahib took out a slip from his box of Paan and gave one of the most memorable dialogues of Indian cinematic history (mentioned below).

    “शहेंशाह की इन् बेहिसाब बख्शीशों के बदले में ये कनीज़ जलालुद्दीन मोहम्मद अकबर को अपना खून माफ़ करती है”

Madhubala and the eternity of style and beauty | Fashion Trends - Hindustan Times

MADHUBALA: My Confession to the Timeless Beauty

Begum Mumtaz Jehan Dehlavi…Madhubala urf Anarkali. I know that this blog is about the movie Mughal-e-Azam. I also know that Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor were huge names in the movie. But, Madhubala in my opinion is the very ‘soul’ of the movie. Just through her enigmatic beauty, sheer innocence and on-screen magic, she is able to make the whole movie revolve around her. Even in real life, she is considered one of the most beautiful actresses of all time and rightly so. She is definitely one of the most beautiful women to have ever come on this planet, and even if I say the ‘Most Beautiful, I don’t think it would be an Exaggeration. Unfortunately, she died very young and had many tragedies in her life. Well, it’s not possible to have a crush on someone who is not Alive, But in my case, I hereby confess that I have a huge huge huge CRUSH on MADHUBALA often called the Beauty with Tragedy.

Madhubala, As Anarkali, Unveiled In Madame Tussauds Delhi

An Evergreen Milestone for Bollywood

So…that was the story of one of the greatest stories ever told in Indian cinematic history. The movie, as we saw was made with so much passion and effort. There were so many instances, where the movie could have stopped and a thing like this could never have got made. But, destiny had everything perfectly set up for the very same people assembling for it, who were actually meant for it. Imagine the time, when the movie was made, but even today when it is coming on screen, it somehow is able to catch our attention and doesn’t let us change the channel. The movie has set a precedent, a milestone long back then, which in my opinion only SANJAY LEELA BHANSALI has been able to replicate. Not just the music, and the cinematography, but also its Dialogues have been the main powerhouse of the film. So, in the end, I would like to pay my respects to the whole team which made this beautiful experience possible. This is a legacy that will live on as long as Bollywood is here. And, before we sign off remember…..

“काँटों को मुरझाने का खौंफ नहीं होता…!!!!!”
















“इन्हें मत देखिये शहज़ादे, इनमे कनीज़ की सेहमी हुई हसरतों के सिवा और कुछ नहीं…भूल जाओ की तुम एक कनीज़ हो और सलीम को इनमे वो देख लेने दो जो तुम्हारी जुबां कहने से डरती है…मेरी आँखों से मेरे ख्वाब न छीनिये शहज़ादे”


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