Through the artistically dandling branches dotted with bright yellow flowers, the legendary actor Dilip Kumar can be seen playing coyly with an ostrich feather. The smiling actor who is wearing a costume studded with precious stones, now playfully moves the feather over the face of an ever-gorgeous Madhubala. An open courtyard of sorts, made of shining marbles, decorated with glasses and spectacular flowers makes for a perfect romantic backdrop. As the scene proceeds, Kumar and Madhubala bring romance alive on the silver screen with their power-packed performance in the evergreen 1960 film Mughal-E-Azam.
Even after six decades, the grandeur, popularity, impact, and success of this film remains unmatchable. If the names of Salim- the rebellious son of Mughal emperor Akbar, and Anarkali-the court dancer who wooed his heart, remain on the tips of almost every Indian household, the credit goes to this film. Mughal-E-Azam, one of the biggest blockbusters not just in India rather world cinema, is no longer a film; it's an emotion with which thousands of lovers relate, a benchmark for acting and a pedestal of cinematography and direction.
One of the longest shot films, Mughal-E-Azam, today completes six decades of its release. To commemorate its diamond anniversary, Akbar Asif, son of the late director K Asif, has presented the film's screenplay to the Oscar's library in Hollywood, and the film is now available there in three versions- Hindi, English, and Roman text.
“The journey of Mughal-E-Azam started with words from the greatest writing team ever assembled in Hindi cinema and I thought the best way to honour them was to permanently preserve their screenplay in the world's most renowned film library,” asserts Asif.
As India celebrates sixty years of Mughal-E-Azam, we bring to you some interesting facts about this film.
- Mughal-E-Azam took nearly 16 years for completion. The original cast included Chandra Mohan, D.K. Sapru, and Nargis for the roles of Akbar, Salim, and Anarkali, respectively. While we lost Mohan two years after the shooting of the film began, in 1942, Nargis withdrew from the film believing that she couldn't do justice with the role. It was her who suggested that Madhubala would be the best choice for the role of Anarkali.
- Though the film is known to many in Hindi, it was shot in three languages- Hindi, Tamil, and English. While the Hindi version became a superhit, the Tamil version, for which the actors just lip-synced dialogues, failed at the box office. Impacted by the influence of this failure, the English language version, which is now lost, was never released.
- It is one of the most expensive films of the Indian film industry. The budget for this film shot up to nearly Rs.1.5 crores then, which would be equal to billions in today's time. The iconic song Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya itself cost Rs.10 lakhs. Producer of the film, Shapoorji Pallonji and Asif are known to have gone bankrupt at the time of release.
- Mughal-E-Azam was a dream project for K Asif, who was already known for his knack for perfection. He paid attention to even minute details and used to re-shoot until the scene was up to the mark. As many as 100 chorus singers were roped in to accompany of the legendary singer Mohammad Rafi for the song Ae Mohabbat Zindabad. Asif even featured some real soldiers to play the role of army men. He even rejected almost 100 drafts of the song Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya.
- It took nearly two years to build the spectacular Sheesh Mahal featured in the film. Since it was made entirely of glass, it presented a great challenge for the cameramen who used to make an involuntary appearance on the glasses. Finally, it was decided to paint the glasses with wax and fit block strips strategically to prevent glare while shooting. As the shooting concluded, the gorgeous Mahal was destroyed.
- Being the great actress that Madhuabala was, she wore real metallic chains for the scenes of her imprisonment, instead of lightweight, artificial ones. She would remain shackled with these chains, even in between the shots, acing the recreation of pain that Anarkali was experiencing. She even got severely bruised from these heavy chains.
Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, the nine year old real life couple, broke up while shooting for the film and are reported to not be even in talking terms while playing some of the romantic scenes in the film
- Though, the film was well received by the audience, historians accuse the film of modifying historical facts in the name of creative liberty. While the records of Salim's war against his father for throne, have been registered in history, nowhere is it mentioned that the rebellion happened because of Anarkali. In fact, she fails to have made an appearance in the historical records, including Salim's autobiography. Even the romantic image of Salim portrayed in the film is far from the actual nature of this Mughal ruler.
- Mughal-E-Azam is undoubtedly a legacy in itself. After an overwhelming response from the audience in the ‘60s, the film was re-released in 2004 in coloured format, becoming the first-ever film to be re-released in theatres. The film was a superhit again and was well received by the younger generation.