Mughal-e Azam tells the story of the Great Mughal, Akbar (r. 1556-1605). The film’s making was itself something of an epic, as it took over fifteen years to shoot, and involved a complete change of cast (the original included Chandramohan, who played Jehangir in Pukar , Nargis and Sapru), several writers and so on. It had the largest budget of any film of its day, Rs 15m, of which a large proportion was spent on costumes, sets and extras. The cinematography is superb, mostly black and white, with some songs shot in colour, including Anarkali’s defiant ‘Pyar kiya to darna kya?’, which was shot in the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace.
The story concerns Anarkali (Madhubala), a dancing girl in the Mughal court. Prince Salim (later Emperor Jehangir) (Dilip Kumar) falls in love with Anarkali but his father, Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor), forbids him to continue this affair. Salim leads a campaign against his father, is defeated and sentenced to death. Anarkali offers to sacrifice her life to save Salim and is buried alive, although Akbar allows her to escape through a tunnel unknown to Salim.
It is not clear whether Anarkali was a historical person, but she was certainly a legendary figure. A favorite story for Indian theatre, the first film version of her life was a silent shot in 1928 by the Great Eastern Corporation of Lahore: The Loves of a Mogul Prince (1928), based on Syed lmtiaz Ali Taj’s play, Anarkali. The Imperial Film Company of Bombay made its own version of the film with Sulochana, and in 1953 Filmistan made Anarkali with Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar, but Mughal-e Azam outshone them all.
Mughal-e Azam tells Mughal history in the context of the new nation, emphasized by the voiceover at the beginning and the depiction of the Muslim sites of India, yet it relates family history rather than social history. The film brings out themes that are popular in Hindi film, notably the struggle between the father and son, and between public duty and private desires and the self-sacrificing woman. It evades issue of Hindu—Muslim relations, despite the Mughal’s reputation for even handedness, although it suggests religious tolerance in the court, as Queen Jodhabai (Durga Khote) was a Hindu and Anarkali sings a Hindu devotional song on the occasion of the birth of Krishna, Janmashtami, ‘Mohe panghat pe’, with Akbar participating in his wife’s Hindu rituals.
Mughal-e Azam is greatly enhanced by Naushad’s music (and Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics), in particular, two numbers sung by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (‘Shubh din aayo’ and ‘Prem jogan banke’). As well as the two Anarkali songs mentioned earlier, there is a qawwali and the thrillingly dramatic ‘Mohabbat ki jhooti kahaani pe roye’, which Anarkali siings when she is in the dungeons, bound in chains. One of the most popular songs is the wonderful qawwali competitions between Anarkali and Bahaar (Nigar Sultana), ‘Teri mehfil mein kismat aazmaakar hum bhi Dekhenge.’
The film contains perhaps the most erotic sequence of Hindi cinema, where Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, said to be off-screen lovers, are shot in close-up, Madhubala’s beautiful and iconic face motionless in ecstasy as Dilip Kumar watches in adoration. From time to time they tease the viewers by hiding their faces from the camera with a white (?) feather, forbidding the audience’s look but inviting their speculation.
Year – 1960
Language – Hindi
Country – India
Producer – Sterling Investment Corporation
Director – K. Asif
Music Director – Naushad
Box-Office Status –
Cast – Murad, Johnny Walker, Durga Khote, Surendra, Sheila Dalaya, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Prithviraj Kapoor, Nigar Sultana, Kumar, Jalal Agha, Vijayalaxmi, S. Nazir, Paul Sharma, Tabassum, Ajit, Heera Sawant
Miscellaneous Information –