Monday, March 31, 2008
Mughal-E-Azam (1960) - Part II
As alluded to in my previous post on 'Mughal-E-Azam' - the backstory of how this movie was made adds yet another layer to the richness and texture of the film itself. Director K. Asif was in pre-production for it in the early 1940's with Nargis cast as Anarkali but due to the events of the Partition the producer relocated to Pakistan and filming never began. Nargis' exit was supposedly hastened by Raj Kapoor due to the fact that he was very possessive of her personally & professionally and did not want to take the risk that she would 'click' with Dilip Kumar. The movie was easily the costliest Indian film ever made and the actors knew they were involved in a very special project. Prithvi Raj Kapoor (who starred in India's first talkie 'Alam Ara') made the role of Akbar his own and took several hours every day to prepare himself for filming. Dilip Kumar's Salim was not given any songs to sing in keeping with his princely role, quite a gamble given his enormous star appeal at the time. But even as the second choice to star as the maiden of the court, Madhubala quite simply stole the show as Anarkali.
After Partition, Indian movies continued to be shown in Pakistan but were banned following a war over Kashmir in 1965. The Pakistan film industry (or Lollywood) in Lahore tried to fill the void but will be the first to tell you that pirated Bollywood movies are more popular than Pakistani films. My friends from Pakistan tell me that they have never seen a Pakistani film for the most part and those who have say they are no match for their Bollywood counterparts. When Mughal-E-Azam was first made there were only a few scenes done in color and K. Asif was so taken aback by what he saw that he attempted to re-shoot the whole movie but his financiers refused to let him. His dream to put a colorized 'Mughal-E-Azam' on the silver screen was realized in 2006 and the movie became the first Indian film to be shown in Pakistan (legally) in over forty years.
Finally, no discussion of this classic would be complete without mentioning the unforgettable soundtrack by the late Naushad. The tale is still told today about how Naushad had composed a song specifically for Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan, a renowned classical singer of the day who considered singing for films an insult to the art itself. K. Asif boldly told him to name his price and the Ustad responded with an unheard of sum of 25,000 rupees for one song. Unheard of because the going price at that time for even established artists such as Rafi & Lata was 500 rupees per song. He was the voice for the Tansen (considered the father of Indian classical music) and the Ustad never sang for a movie again.
The two selections for today are both my favorite songs from the film. The first is Mohe Panghat Pe which was sung to celebrate the festival of Krishna's birth at the palace - and whose filming was attended by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (former Prime Minister of Pakistan & father of Benazir). The second is Tere Mehfil Mein that is a duet sung by Lata & the very underrated Shamshad Begum for the affections of Prince Salim. The piece of dialogue that follows the song is one of the most oft repeated lines in a movie full of them. Anarkali receives the stem of a rose as a prize from the prince while her competition receives the rose itself. Not to be outdone she gives salaam for the prize and says "Jahe naseeb. Kaanton ko murjhane ka khauf nahin." (I am fortunate to receive thorns because thorns never wither)." The videos of both songs can be found below...
The album can be downloaded at Parties, Sarees & Melodies. A great blog that lets you download songs from many classic Bollywood LP's with insightful writing about the songs themselves. Credit to Stella for the picture above as well.