Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mughal-E-Azam (1960) - Part I



The term 'classic' is thrown around alot these days in Bollywood but in the case of 'Mughal-E-Azam' - the sequel to the just released 'Jodhaa Akbar' - superlatives fall short when describing what this film has meant since it was released nearly fifty years ago. I refer to it as a sequel because the story is about the son of Emperor Akbar (played brilliantly by Prithviraj Kapoor) and his wife Queen Jodha - Prince Salim. Dilip Kumar stars as Salim and the luminous Madhubala gives a performance for the ages as a maid of the court, Anarkali. The dialogues & songs have been memorized over the years by many a film lover and the story of the making of this epic is just as memorable as the film itself. For an in depth review of the movie please visit our friend Carla over at Filmigeek.



Dilip Kumar & Madhubala's star-crossed love story onscreen was just as tragic and legendary as their offscreen one. Both Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar) and Mumtaz Jahan Begum (Madhubala) were originally from large Pathan Muslim families and were among the biggest film stars of their day. Madhubala was born on Valentine's day in 1933 and an astrologer predicted that she would bring great wealth and fame to her family. She was smitten with the dashing Dilipsaab at the tender age of seventeen and he with her. But her father, Ataullah Khan, forbade her to marry as the family was completely dependent on her income and he feared that her marriage would financially ruin them. Dilip never forgave her for breaking his heart and later testified against her in a court case involving a breach of contract for the movie 'Naya Daur'. This would have been the end of it had it not been for the fact that they had both already signed on for 'Mughal-E-Azam' months before and Madhubala (reeling from the bad publicity from the 'Naya Daur' fallout) was forced to go ahead with the shoot.



The actual filming lasted an incredible ten years and took both a physical and an emotional toll on all the principal players, especially the two leads who were said to be not even looking or speaking to one another except during the filming of their scenes together. This case of art imitating life only added to the pathos of their characters and tragic as it was - it helped the movie achieve the status of 'classic' like few films before or after. The selection for today is arguably the most famous song from the soundtrack, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya ("I have loved so what do I have to fear?") - see video below. The set for the song (Sheesh Mahal) was constructed from glass imported from Belgium and whose cost was as much as the budget of most films at that time. There were so many mirrors that needed lighting that the song was shot at night with stage lights that had to be borrowed from other films in production that were returned the next morning. It was one of the only colorized parts of the movie and many say that Madhubala gave her bravura performance in the song because she was in fact, singing the song to her father about her true love for Dilip Kumar. Next week, the historical significance of the movie and more about the making of the movie & soundtrack...

6 comments:

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Looking back at this, years after having 1st seen it, I think brings back some perspective for me. In India, watching this movie is almost an act of pure reverence. Devoid of that now, I really beleive that Madhubala was at the height of her acting talents here. I think I enjoyed her more than Dilip, who appeared too dramatic for me.

ohslowburn said...

I am probably in the minority, but I think "Mohe panghat pe" is the better song. And it annoys me to no end that most recordings edit out the classical opening notes to it. I also love "Prem Jogan Ban Ke" by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

And yes, I owned the dialogues on tape. Listened to it over and over as a kid!

Daddy's Girl said...

Fascinating stuff... I am yet to see this movie and am really looking forward to it... and to the next part of this piece.

Sanket Vyas said...

Shweta - I couldn't agree with you more on several points. First of all, if you strip all that the movie has meant over the years to so many - when you look at it just purely as a film lover you realize it is just amazing. Madhubala owned this film from beginning to end - Dilip's character didn't even get one song in keeping with his princely character. As far as the song goes, my favorite 2 songs will be referenced in my next post and 'Mohe Panghat Pe' is one of those. Both Bade Ghulam Ali Khan songs will also be discussed as their inclusion is part of legendary Bollywood lore. Dialogues on tape as kid - check!

DG - This is one of those special night, all lights out, no interruptions movie - it will transport you into the era of the film like few others. Thanks for the kind words :)

fey.sheen said...

Mughle Azam is a master piece. I saw this film in black and white and then in colors. being the last film of Madhu it also has a tragic aspect.

Sanket Vyas said...

Agreed and it almost was as if Madhu knew it would be her last film - she gave such an amazing performance that would define her career.