|Directed by||K. Asif|
|Produced by||Shapoorji Pallonji|
|Cinematography||R. D. Mathur|
|Studio||Sterling Investment Corporation|
|Release date(s)||5 August 1960
12 November 2004 (re-release)
|Running time||191 minutes
177 minutes (re-release)
|Budget||1.05 – 1.5 crores|
|Box office||5.5 crores|
Mughal-e-Azam (English: The Greatest of the Mughals) is a 1960 Indian period epic film directed by K. Asif and produced by Shapoorji Pallonji. The film featured Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Durga Khote in pivotal roles. It loosely follows an episode in the life of the Mughal Prince Salim (who went on to become Emperor Jahangir) who falls in love with a court dancer Anarkali. The affair is disapproved of by his father, emperor Akbar, and envied by a superior dancer who wishes to be a queen. Both Salim and Anarkali refuse to part with each other, leading to a war between father and son which the latter loses. Salim's life is spared in exchange for Anarkali's, who is eventually saved as a favour from a past incident.
The development of Mughal-e-Azam began in 1944 when Asif read a play which was set in the reign of Emperor Akbar. The film underwent a troubled production, facing a number of problems and halts due to communal tensions and financial uncertainty, almost to the point of bankruptcy. Prior to the film's principal photography, which began in either 1951 or 1953, the film lost a financier and underwent a complete change in the cast. Upon completion, Mughal-e-Azam became the most expensive Indian film, to the extent that the filming of a single sequence cost more than the entire budget of a typical film. The film was also dubbed in Tamil as Akbar, but its commercial failure resulted in the abandoning of a planned English dubbing. The music director for the film's soundtrack was Naushad, and the lyrics were penned by Shakeel Badayuni. The music was heavily inspired from Indian classical and folk music. The soundtrack contained 12 songs, voiced by both playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar, and classical music artists such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. It is often cited as one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood history.
Mughal-e-Azam witnessed the widest cinematic release for an Indian film at that time, and ticket sales often featured day-long queues and rioting in certain places. Upon release, the film created box office records in India, becoming the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, a record it held for 15 years. The film's colour version was released in November 2004 which was a commercial success.
Mughal-e-Azam is widely considered a classic, and is often recognised as a milestone in Indian cinema. Contemporary critics unanimously praised the film, commenting on its cinematic quality, grandeur, cinematography and attention to detail. The film went on to win numerous accolades, notably one National Film Award and three Filmfare awards.
Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor), who does not have a male heir, undertakes pilgrimage to a shrine to pray for a son. Later, the news that his wife Jodha Bai (Durga Khote) has given birth to a son is brought to the emperor by a maid. Overjoyed at his prayers being answered, Akbar gives the maid his ring and promises to grant her any one wish she asks.
The son, Prince Salim, grows to be a spoilt, flippant and pleasure-loving boy. His father sends him off to war to teach him courage and discipline. After 14 years, Salim returns as a distinguished soldier (Dilip Kumar). Salim falls in love with a court-dancer Anarkali (Madhubala), and continues secret rendezvous with her. However, the jealous Bahaar (Nigar Sultana), a dancer of a higher rank, attempts to make the prince love her so that she may ascend to queenship. Unsuccessful in winning Salim's heart, she exposes the love between him and Anarkali. Salim pleads for Anarkali's hand, but his father objects and throws Anarkali into prison. Despite imprisonment, Anarkali refuses to reject Salim.
Salim rebels and amasses his own army to confront Akbar. Salim is defeated in battle and is sentenced to death by his own father, but is told that the sentence will be revoked if Anarkali, now in hiding, is handed over to die in his place. Akbar's subjects plead to spare his son, and Anarkali comes out of hiding to save the prince's life. She is condemned to death by entombment alive. Before her sentence is carried out, she pleads to have a few hours with Salim as his make-believe wife. She is granted the wish, as she agrees to drug him afterwards so that he cannot interfere with her entombment. As she is being walled up, Akbar is reminded that he still owes a favour to Anarkali's mother, since she was the one who carried the message of Salim's birth to Akbar. Anarkali's mother begs for her daughter's life. The emperor relents, and arranges for Anarkali's secret escape with her mother into exile. He stipulates, though, that they are to live in total obscurity, and that Salim is never to know that Anarkali still lives.
- Asif had initially rejected Kumar for the role. Kumar himself was reluctant towards the idea of acting in a period film, but he accepted the role upon the insistence of the film's producer. According to Kumar, "Asif trusted me enough to leave the delineation of Salim completely to me". Kumar visited London to test the wig he would wear in the film. He faced significant difficulty while filming in Rajasthan due to the heat and the body armour he wore.
- Madhubala as Nadira, who is renamed Anarkali (meaning pomegranate blossom) by Akbar and becomes the court dancer after displaying impressive dancing abilities.
- Though Madhubala had acted in a number of films and was considered to be in the "twilight" of her career, she was reported to have been longing for a significant role. When the author-backed character of Anarkali came to her, Madhubala reportedly "couldn't let it go." The role of Anarkali had previously been offered to Suraiya. Madhubala suffered significant difficulty while filming, primarily due to her congenital heart disease. She is said to have fainted on the sets, and suffered skin abrasions while filming the prison sequences, but was reportedly dedicated to her work and not much concerned about her health.
- To get into the skin of his character, Kapoor was reported to have "relied completely on the script and director", and would look into a mirror as tall as himself before every shot. Prior to make-up, Kapoor would declare, "Prithviraj Kapoor ab jaa rahaa hai" ("Prithviraj Kapoor is now going"); after make-up, he would announce, "Akbar ab aa rahaa hai" ("Akbar is now coming"). Kapoor faced difficulty with his heavy armour, and suffered blisters on his feet after walking bare-footed on the desert for a particular sequence.
- Durga Khote as Empress Jodhabai, Salim's mother and Akbar's principal wife
- Nigar Sultana as Bahar, a court dancer
- Ajit as Durjan Singh
- M. Kumar as Sangtarash, the royal sculptor
- Murad as Raja Man Singh
- Jillo Bai as Anarkali's mother
- Sheila Dalaya as Suraiya, Anarkali's sister
- Jalal Agha as Young Prince Salim. Tabla artist Ustad Zakir Hussain had initially been considered for the role.
Other minor parts were portrayed by Vijayalaxmi, Khurshid Khan, Shah Gul, Jago, Syed Hussain, Khanna, S. Nazair, Khawaja Sabir, Mah Gul, Paul Sharma, Gulam Sabir, Surender, Johnny Walker, Tabassum and Gopi Krishna.
The Urdu poet Imtiyaz Ali Taaj wrote a novel based on the love story of Salim and Anarkali in 1922. The story is based more on legend than actual facts. A theatrical version of the novel was soon produced, and screen versions followed suit. Ardeshir Irani made a silent film named Anarkali in 1928 and remade it as a talkie in 1935. In the early 1940s, the tale of Anarkali inspired producer Shiraz Ali Hakeem and K. Asif, a young director, to make another cinemtic adaptation which they named Mughal-e-Azam. They roped in four notable Urdu writers to develop the screenplay and dialogue: Aman (Zeenat Aman’s father, also known as Amanullah Khan), Wajahat Mirza, Kamaal Amrohi, and Ehsan Rizvi. It is not known how they collaborated or split up their duties, but the result is often likened to poetry. As the script neared completion, Asif cast Chandramohan, D.K. Sapru and Nargis for the roles of Akbar, Salim and Anarkali respectively. Shooting started in 1946 in Bombay Talkies studio.
However, the project faced multiple hurdles which forced it to be abandoned. The political tensions and communal rioting surrounding India's partition and independence in 1947 stalled the film's production. Shortly after Partition, Shiraz Ali migrated to Pakistan, leaving Asif without a financier. The actor Chandramohan suffered a heart attack and died in 1949. Shiraz Ali had previously suggested the name of business tycoon Shapoorji Pallonji for financing the film. Pallonji did not know anything regarding the production of films, but owing to his interest in the history of Akbar, and at the persuasion of Asif, he finally agreed in 1950 to produce Mughal-e-Azam. The film was restarted with the presently-known cast.
Kamal Amrohi, one of the scriptwriters who was also a director, also planned to make a film named Anarkali on the same subject. However, Asif and Amrohi had a confrontation, and Amrohi agreed to shelve his project. A film named Anarkali, based on the same stage play, was released in 1953. That film, directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal, and starring Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar, became the highest grossing Bollywood film of 1953.
The film's production design was in a massive scale and expensive, and was led by the art director M. K. Sayed. Some sets took six weeks to erect. The song "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" ("I have loved, so what is there to fear?") was filmed in Mohan Studios in a set built as a replica of the Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort. This set was noted for its size, measuring 150 feet in length, 80 feet in breadth and 35 feet in height. A heavily-discussed aspect of the set was the presence of numerous small mirrors made of Belgian glass, which were crafted and designed by workers from Firozabad. This set took two years to build, and cost more than 15 lakhs (valued at about US$314,465 in 1960[a]), a price higher than the budget of an entire film at that time. The high cost increased fears that the financiers of the film would face bankruptcy.
Skilled artisans from across India were recruited for crafting the paraphernalia. The costume design was done by dress designers Makhanlal and Company; tailors skilled at zardozi embroidery from Delhi stitched the Mughal costume. In addition, the footwear was ordered from Agra, the jewellery made by goldsmiths in Hyderabad, the crowns designed in Kolhapur, and blacksmiths from Rajasthan manufactured the armoury. A statue of Lord Krishna, to which Jodhabai prayed, was made of gold. In the scenes involving an imprisoned Anarkali, the chains Madhubala wore were authentic. The battle sequence between Akbar and Salim featured 2,000 camels, 400 horses and 8,000 troops. A significant portion of the soldiers were taken from the Indian Army's Jaipur cavalry, 56 Regiment.
The principal photography of Mughal-e-Azam began in the early 1950s, with the exact year being disputed between 1951 and 1953. Filming was done three times for every sequence, since the film was being produced as a trilingual of Hindi/Urdu, Tamil and English. The film was eventually dubbed in Tamil and released as Akbar; but its commercial failure resulted in the abandoning of the planned English dubbing, for which British actors were considered. Asif was accompanied by an extensive crew, which included his assistant directors Khalid Akhtar, Rashid Abbasi and Surinder Kapoor, the latter assisting primarily for the English version. Additional crew members included: cinematographer R. D. Mathur, choreographer Lachhu Maharaj (famed Kathak dancer), production manager Aslam Noori, project director Deepesh Salgia, editor Dharamavir, art director M. K. Syed, costume designers Jagi and B. N. Trivedi, makeup artists P. G. Joshi and Abdul Hamid, and sound director Akram Shaikh.
Certain sequences of the film utilised 14 cameras, significantly more than the norm at that time. The film's lighting faced a number of difficulties, with cinematographer Mathur reported to have taken eight hours to light a single shot. Due to the very large size of the Sheesh Mahal set, the lighting was obtained by using the headlights of 500 trucks. The presence of the mirrors in the set caused problems since they would sparkle under the lights. Consultants from Hollywood, including Sir David Lean, told Asif to abandon the idea since they felt that it was impossible to film the scene under the intense glare. Asif confined himself to the set with the lighting crew, and subsequently overcame the problem by covering all the mirrors with a thin covering of wax, thereby getting rid of their reflective nature. In addition, Mathur used strategically placed strips of cloth to implement "bounce lighting", which reduced the glare.
Filming suffered a number of problems and delays which forced an increase in the production duration, to the extent that Asif had decided to not complete the film at one point of time. Kumar commented on the long time taken for principal photography to complete, but defended the duration due to the massive logistics of the film. He also stated that the entire cast and crew was "acutely conscious of the hard work [they] would have to put in, as well as the responsibility [they] would have to shoulder."
The filming process also suffered from financial problems, with Asif reported to have gone over-budget a number of times. The final budget of the film is a subject of debate, with some sources stating that Mughal-e-Azam cost 1.05 crores to produce, about $2 million at the time, while others claim it to be 1.5 crores, or about $3 million. This made Mughal-e-Azam the most expensive Indian film at that time; a number of estimates put the film's inflation-adjusted budget at 50 crores to 200 crores. The budget situation created major differences between Asif and Pallonji. The production also faced troubled relationships among other crew members; differences crept up between Asif and Kumar when the former married the latter's sister. Another source of trouble was the romantic relationship and ultimate break-up of Kumar and Madhubala.
By the end of filming, over a million feet of negative was obtained, necessitating significant editing. A number of songs were edited out of the film due to the running time. A song titled "Ae Ishq Yeh Sab Duniyawale", picturised on Sheila Dalaya, was cut from the film. Similarly, the song "Husn Ki Baraat Chali", which was sung by three playback singers was cut from the film because a scene during which Prince Salim visits the royal boathouse and distributes gifts was removed from the final cut. In all, nearly half of the songs recorded for the film were ultimately left out.
Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) was the first colour film in India. By 1957, colour filming was gaining an increasing presence in Indian films. Asif filmed one reel in Technicolor (which included the song "Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya"). Impressed by the results, he filmed three reels near the film's climax in Technicolor. After seeing the results, he wanted to make the entire film in Technicolor, angering impatient distributors who were not willing to accept further delays. Asif subsequently released the film partially coloured, though he wished to see the full film in a colour version.
|Soundtrack album by Naushad|
After conceiving the idea of the film, Asif visited renowned music director Naushad and handed him a briefcase filled with currency notes, telling him to make "memorable music" for Mughal-e-Azam. Offended by the explicit notion of money as means of gaining quality, Naushad threw the notes out of the window, a situation which attracted the attention of his surprised wife. She subsequently made peace between both of them, and Asif apologised for the "misunderstanding". With this, Naushad accepted the offer to direct the film's soundtrack.
The lyrics were penned by Shakeel Badayuni, with the opening lyrics of "Mohe Panghat Pe" being composed by Thakur Prasad, the choreographer's grandfather. As with most of Naushad's soundtracks, the soundtrack of Mughal-e-Azam was heavily inspired from Indian classical music and folk music, particularly the ragas such as the Raga Durbari, the Raga Durga, used for "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya", and the Raga Kedar, used for "Bekas Pe Karam Keejeye". He also made extensive use of symphony orchestras and choruses to add a grandeur to the music. The soundtrack contained a total of 12 songs, which were voiced by both playback singers and classical music artists.
A total of 20 songs were composed for the film, at a cost of 3,000 per song, though many were left out of the final cut of the film. Both Asif and Naushad approached Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan with the request of participating in the film's soundtrack, but the latter refused since he disliked working in films. Asif, adamant about the presence of Khan, asked him to name his fee. Khan quoted a fee of 25,000 per song (at a time when Mangeshkar and Rafi charged 300–400 per song), thinking that Asif would send him away. Instead, Asif agreed, and even gave Khan a 50% advance. Surprised and left with no excuse to turn down the offer, he finally accepted. In the film's final cut, a number of songs were deleted due to the length of the film.
The composition of "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" was especially time-consuming – on the day of the song's recording, Naushad rejected two sets of lyrics made by Badayuni. Subsequently, a "brainstorming session" was held on Naushad's terrace, beginning in early evening and lasting until next day. Late in the night, Naushad remembered a folk song from eastern Uttar Pradesh with the lyrics going as "Prem kiya, kya chori kari hai..." ("I have loved, does it mean that I have stolen?"). The song was converted into a ghazal and subsequently recorded. At that time, since there was no technology to provide for the reverberation of sound heard in the song, Naushad had Mangeshkar sing the song in a studio bathroom. Some sources state that the song "Ae Mohabbat Zindabad" had singer Mohammed Rafi supported with a chorus of 100 singers, though other sources place the number at a thousand.
It is claimed that the song "Mohe Panghat Pe" was objected to by veteran director Vijay Bhatt, who was not directly involved with the project, since it spoke of the celebration of Janmashtami, an oddity since the song was depicted in the Mughal court. Though Naushad argued that the presence of Jodhabai made the situation logical, he met the film's screenwriters and subsequently added a dialogue which explained the sequence.
At the time that the film was being colourised for re-release, the soundtrack was also reworked, with original composer Naushad receiving help from Uttam Singh. The score remained the same, but the sound was touched up and converted to Dolby Digital. The orchestral part was re-recorded with live musicians, but the original solo vocals were retained. The cost was reported to be between 26 Lakh and 65 Lakh.
The soundtrack of Mughal-e-Azam received universal acclaim from critics in India, and is often cited as one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood history. Shahid Khan, writing for Planet Bollywood, gave the soundtrack a perfect 10 out of 10 stars. In 2004, Subhash K. Jha reviewed the re-mastered release of the soundtrack, praising the technical quality of the re-release, and the original vocals of Lata Mangeshkar, whom he called the "Indian nightingale".
|1.||"Mohe Panghat Pe"||Lata Mangeshkar and Chorus||04:02|
|2.||"Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya"||Lata Mangeshkar and Chorus||06:21|
|3.||"Mohabbat Ki Jhooti"||Lata Mangeshkar||02:40|
|4.||"Humen Kash Tumse Mohabbat"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:08|
|5.||"Bekas Pe Karam Keejeye"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:52|
|6.||"Teri Mehfil Mein"||Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and Chorus||05:05|
|7.||"Ye Dil Ki Lagi"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:50|
|8.||"Ae Ishq Yeh Sab Duniyawale"||Lata Mangeshkar||04:17|
|9.||"Khuda Nigehbaan"||Lata Mangeshkar||02:52|
|10.||"Ae Mohabbat Zindabad"||Mohammed Rafi and Chorus||05:03|
|11.||"Prem Jogan Ban Ke"||Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan||05:03|
|12.||"Shubh Din Aayo Raj Dulara"||Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan||02:49|
Film scholar Stephen Teo posits that Mughal-e-Azam is one of the best examples of utilising what he calls "monumental style", a way of appropriating history and heritage to emphasize the national identity. Teo says that the theme of romantic love defeating social class difference and power hierarchy, and the grandeur of the filming contribute to the attractiveness of the film. Scholars Bhaskar and Allen described the film as a tableau vivant of "Islamicate culture", evidenced in its ornate sets, musical sequences such as the qawwali scene, and chaste Urdu dialogues.
Scholar Philip Lutgendorf said that while the theme of the conflict between passionate individual love and family duty may be very common to Hindi filmmaking, with endless cinematic permutations, "for sheer baroque grandiosity, K. Asif's excessive elaboration of the theme remains in a class by itself." It is also extended up a level as the Emperor Akbar himself struggles between his personal desires and his duties to the nation. Lutgendorf says, "The Nation looms large throughout, and literally so in the opening and closing segments, when viewers are addressed by an enormous relief map that announces (in a male voice), 'I am Hindustan,' and proclaims Akbar to have been one of his greatest devotees.
Although thought of as a historical epic film, Mughal-e-Azam takes liberties with history for the sake of the story. Historian Alex von Tunzelmann says that the real Salim was a heavy consumer of alcohol and opium, but that though those habits started when he was 18, not as a boy as depicted in the film. In the film, when Salim returns from war, he is shown to be a gentle romantic hero, as opposed to the real Salim, who was brutal person that would beat people to death and was still getting drunk. The real Salim led a rebellion against his father, tried to replace him as emperor, and had his friend Abu al-Fazl murdered in 1602, but the film ascribes these actions to his desire to marry Anarkali, which is definitely not historically accurate. Anarkali is often regarded as legend, though there are snippets of historical evidence for it. She may have been a painter or a courtesan. She may also have been one of Akbar's wives and the mother of Salim's half-brother Prince Daniyal.
At the time of the release of Mughal-e-Azam, a typical Bollywood film would garner a distribution fee of 3 lakhs–4 lakhs (about US$62,893–83,857 in 1960[a]) per territory. However, Asif insisted on selling the film to the distributors at the rate of 7 lakhs (US$146,750[a]) per territory, making it clear that he would sell the film only as per his wish. Subsequently, the film was actually sold at a price of 17 lakhs (US$356,394[a]) per territory, surprising Asif and the producers. Thus, it set the record for the highest distribution fee received by any Bollywood film at that time.
The premiere of Mughal-e-Azam was held at the then-new, 1,100-capacity Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai. Mirroring the nature of the film, the theatre's foyer had been decorated to resemble a Mughal palace, and a 40-foot tall cut-out of Prithviraj Kapoor was erected outside it. The Sheesh Mahal set was transported from the studio to the theatre, where ticket holders could go inside and experience its grandeur. Invitations to the premiere were sent as "royal invites" shaped like scrolls, which were written in Urdu and made to look like the Akbarnama, the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar. The premiere was held amidst great fanfare, witnessing large crowds and an extensive media presence, in addition to hosting the entire film industry, though Dilip Kumar himself did not attend the event due to his dispute with Asif. The film's reels arrived at the premiere theatre atop a decorated elephant, accompanied to the beat of bugles and shehnai.
The day before the film's bookings opened, a reported crowd of 100,000 had gathered outside the Maratha Mandir to buy tickets. The tickets, the most expensive for a Bollywood film at that time, were dockets containing text, photographs and trivia about the film, and are now considered collector's items. Bookings witnessed major chaos and rioting, to the extent that police intervention was required. It was reported that people would wait in queues for four to five days, and would be supplied food from home through their family members. Subsequently, the Maratha Mandir closed the bookings for three weeks.
Mughal-e-Azam was released on 5 August 1960 in 150 theatres across the country, setting the record for the widest cinematic release for a Bollywood film at that time. Upon release, it became a major commercial success, earning 40 lakh (about US$838,574 in 1960[a]) in the first week, and eventually earning a nett revenue of 5.5 crores, generating a profit of 3 crores for the producers. Mughal-e-Azam also witnessed a long theatrical run, being screened to full capacity at the Maratha Mandir for three years. The film thus became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time by surpassing Mother India (1957), and retained this record until Sholay (1975) surpassed its nett revenue.
A number of sources have stated that Mughal-e-Azam is the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time if adjusted for inflation. According to the online box office website Box Office India, the film's adjusted nett revenue would amount to 132.7 crores, ranking it as an "All-Time Blockbuster". The trade magazine Box Office implemented a formula for adjusting box office collections, using the base price of gold and growth of multiplexes as factors, and calculated that Mughal-e-Azam is the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time.
Mughal-e-Azam received nearly universal acclaim from Indian critics, with every aspect of the film receiving praise. A majority of them described the film as a classic, calling it a "benchmark" and "milestone" in the history of Indian cinema. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama said, "The grandiose look, the haunting musical score, the breathtaking battle scenes, the splendid performances, the heart-rending emotions, the legendary romance between Salim and Anarkali and of course, the confrontation scenes between Akbar and Salim? Mughal-e-Azam will always remain a benchmark." Anupama Chopra included the film in her list of "Top 100 Films", writing "With its powerful performances, thunderous father-son drama and spectacular song-and-dance sequences, Mughal-e-Azam is the apotheosis of the Hindi film form." Dinesh Raheja of Rediff called the film "a must-see classic," saying, "A work of art is the only phrase to describe this historical whose grand palaces-and-fountains look has an epic sweep and whose heart-wrenching core of romance has the tenderness of a feather's touch." Sujata Gupta of Planet Bollywood gave the film 9 out of 10 stars, calling it a must see for young and old alike.
K K Rai of Stardust, in a very positive review, stated: "It can be said that the grandeur and vintage character of Mughal-e-Azam cannot be repeated, and it will remembered as one of the most significant films made in this country." Ziya Us Salam of The Hindu described Mughal-e-Azam as "a film you see not because you have not seen it, but simply because you cannot have enough of it!" Raja Sen of Rediff compared the film to Spartacus (1960) and said, "Mughal-e-Azam is awesomely, stunningly overwhelming, a magnificent spectacle entirely free of CGI and nonlinear gimmickry, a gargantuan feat of... of... well, of Mughal proportions!" Nasreen Munni Kabir, author of The Immortal Dialogue of K Asif's Mugahl-e-Azam, described the film as "the Kohinoor, the diamond that shines bright in popular cinema." Laura Bushell of BBC rated the film four out of five stars, commenting, "A benchmark film for both Indian cinema and cinema grandeur in general, Mughal-E-Azam is epic in every sense of the word."
In his essay in Ashis Nandy's book The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema, Ziauddin Sardar said that the film is structured like a ghazal. Of the dialogues he said, "The characters of Mughal-e-Azam do not just speak — they refine communication, they distil it, they crystallize it into many-faceted gems, they make poetry of ordinary language." Both Outlook and the Hindustan Times declared that the scene in which Salim brushes Anarkali with an ostrich feather was the "most erotic, sensuous scene in the history of Indian cinema."
Mughal-e-Azam received a number of nominations and awards. At the 1961 National Film Awards, the film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. In the 1961 Filmfare Awards, Mughal-e-Azam was nominated in seven categories:- Best Film, Best Director (Asif), Best Actress (Madhubala), Best Playback Singer (Mangeshkar), Best Music (Naushad), Best Cinematography (Mathur) and Best Dialogues (Aman, Wajahat Mirza, Kamaal Amrohi, and Ehsan Rizvi), winning the awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Dialogues.
The idea of colouring Mughal-e-Azam originated when Umar Siddiqui, managing director of the Indian Academy of Arts and Animation (IAAA), met representatives of the Shapoorji Pallonji group; the idea was further supported by Dilip Kumar in 2001. To convince the company about the commercial viability of the project, the IAAA colourised a four-minute clip of the film and showed it to the Sterling Investment Corporation, which liked the result. Shapoorji Pallonji himself supported the idea, regretful of being unable to complete the original film in colour and thinking of the colourisation as a tribute to Asif.
However, the first step towards colourisation was the restoration of the original negatives, which were in a poor condition due to extensive printing of the negative during the original theatrical release. Major efforts were taken up for this process, since restoration was essential for the colourisation. The process involved cleaning the negative of fungal growth, restoring the portions which were damaged with pinholes, and re-instating missing parts in the frames. After the cleaning, each frame of the negative was scanned into a 10 megabytes-sized file, with the total number of frames numbering 300,000. The restoration required significant labour and money to complete.
To undertake the colourisation, Siddiqui brought together a team of around 100 individuals, including computer engineers and software professionals, and organised a number of art departments. The entire project was co-ordinated by Deepesh Salgia, who partnered with a number of companies like Iris Interactive and Rajtaru Studios to execute the colourisation. The task was controlled and supervised by the producers, who received daily updates and reports about the progress.
The process of colourisation was preceded by extensive research. The art departments visited museums and read books to understand the typical colours of clothing worn at that time. Additionally, Siddiqui studied the technology used for the colourisation of black-and-white Hollywood classics. The team also approached a number of people for guidance and suggestions, including Dilip Kumar, production designer Nitin Chandrakant Desai and a historian from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
The colourisation team spent 18 months to develop a software for colouring the frames, called "Effects Plus", which was designed to accept only those colours whose hue would match the shade of grey present in the original film. This ensured that the colours being added were as close to the real colour as possible; the authenticity of the colouring was later verified when a costume used in the film was retrieved from a warehouse, and its colours were found to match the colourisation in the film. Every shot was finally hand-corrected to perfect the look. The actual colourisation process took a further 10 months to complete. Siddiqui said, "It's been a painstaking process with men working round the clock to complete the project." The exact cost of the colourisation is debated, with a wide variety of estimates ranging from 2 crores to 5 crores, to 10 crores; this is more than the original cost to make the film, while not accounting for inflation.
The film's colour version was released theatrically on 12 November 2004 in 150 prints across the country, 65 of which were in Maharashtra. The premiere of the new version happened at Eros theatre in Mumbai. Dilip Kumar was in attendance (he could not attend the original premiere). For the release, the colour version was edited to a running time of 177 minutes, but the original running time was preserved for the home media release. This release also included a digitization and reworking of the soundtrack, in which the original composer Naushad participated. The theatrical release coincided with the Diwali weekend, with the film debuting against three other releases – Veer-Zaara, Aitraaz and Naach. It became the 19th highest grossing Bollywood film of the year, with 10 crores nett gross, behind Aitraaz and Veer-Zaara (the top grosser), but ahead of Naach.
Mughal-e-Azam thus became the first full-length feature film in the history of world cinema to be colourised for a theatrical re-release (some Hollywood films were colourised, but only for release on home media). It was then selected for seven international film festivals. Upon release, the film witnessed full shows at the theatres, with an overall occupancy of 90%. Subsequently, the film completed a 25-week run at the theatres. While some critics complained that the colours were "psychedelic, unnatural", there were others who hailed the effort as a technological achievement. Film critic Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times remarked that while colourising is not a good idea for most black-and-white classics, it was perfect in this particular instance. He compared it to films by Cecil B. DeMille, and to Gone With the Wind (1939) for its larger-than-life storytelling. The Guardian said that although the new version was an improvement, "the fake colours tend to look flat and brash, detracting from cinematographer RD Mathur's elegantly composed shots."
In 2006, Mughal-e-Azam became only the fourth film certified for showing in Pakistan since the 1965 ban on Indian cinema, being released in the country with a premiere in Lahore. It was distributed in the country by Nadeem Mandviwala Entertainment, at the request of K. Asif's son, Akbar Asif. A 3D version of the film was reported to have been planned as of 2009.
Mughal-e-Azam remained one of only two films K. Asif ever directed, and one of his unfinished films was released posthumously as a tribute. It is often regarded as the "crowning glory" of Madhubala's career. After this film, she could have had the best of roles, but was advised not to overwork due to her heart condition, and was unable even to finish some films that were underway. It is said that the name of the film itself has become a part of the Bollywood vernacular, with the words Mughal-e-Azam often being heard on sets of modern films. For example, if a craftsman takes longer than necessary on a job, the impatient art director may say something like "Finish quickly, do you think we are making Mughal-e-Azam?" This is a testament to the passion that went into making the film. Art director Omung Kumar, who has designed sets for major Indian films such as Black (2005) and Saawariya (2007) said that he and others in his field even today look up to Mughal-e-Azam as a source of inspiration when it comes to art direction. The film has also been used as a model for the perfect love story in the years that followed. As a result, many directors have been pressured not to make a love story where there is no barrier coming between the lovers.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai was quoted as saying that a film like this could never be repeated. "Mughal-e-Azam is an all-time classic and has been the ultimate love story in Hindi cinema at all levels. So it will always remain alive for generations to come." Also to commemorate the anniversary, actor and producer Shahrukh Khan, who is a fan of the film and a friend of Akbar Asif, had his company Red Chillies Entertainment produce a documentary on the film. It was called Mughal-E-Azam — A Tribute by a son to his father; it included interviews with K. Asif's family and Bollywood stars, and was hosted by Khan himself. In connection with the video, artist M. F. Husain created a series of paintings re-imagining some of the memorable scenes. Khan is also interested in preserving the film for future generations, and noted that his father was originally cast in the film, but did not complete it. When asked if Mughal-e-Azam should be remade he replied no, adding that "It is the mother of all films; mothers cannot be remade". Though no sequels have been made, the film Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam (2008), paid tribute by including in its plot a portion of the stage play, and of course with its name. It received very poor ratings from critics.
Mughal-e-Azam often ranks on lists of top Indian films, such as the 2002 British Film Institute poll of "Top 10 Indian Films", and Anupama Chopra's 2009 list, "The Best Bollywood Films". As of 2012[update], the film had a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.5 out of 10. It is second on Box Office India's list of "Biggest Blockbusters Ever in Hindi Cinema". It belongs to only a small collection of films, including Kismet (1943), Mother India (1957), Sholay (1975) and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994), which are repeatedly watched throughout India and are viewed as definitive Hindi films with cultural significance.
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