Director: K. Asif
Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Durga Khote, Nigar Sultana, Ajit
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A slender sylph AND A passionate prince meet amid the strains of Tansen's rendition of Raga Sohini. A faint whiff of a blush on her cheeks as he gently caresses her impassioned face with a white feather' or, when she first lifts her golden veil to Pannalal Ghosh's fleeting flute (accompanying a young Lata Mangeshkar's Mohe panghat pe), with the swish of her maroon skirt'is when you know that an immortal fable of forbidden love, pride and passion is reborn.
A fable that survived centuries and got a fresh lease of life in the 20s. A famous stageplay and several films followed ' the first, a silent one in 1925, and a famous version starring Bina Rai in 1953. But none was so epic in its sweep, so grand in scale as the one a possessed K. Asif took more than a decade to create. But despite the grandeur (thanks to cinematographer R. D. Mathur's camera, the exquisite jewellery, the nearly 500 horses from the Army's Jaipur Regiment for the battle scene between father and son); immortal dialogues (Aman, Kamal Amrohi, Ehsan Rizvi, Wajahat Mirza); unforgettable music (Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, the 'voice' of Tansen, charged Rs 25,000 per song at a time when Lata and Rafi would be paid Rs 300) and the hint of colour that lit up the Sheesh Mahal, Asif had an unrealised dream ' to shoot the entire film in colour.
And colour it had to be for the generations that have identified Prithviraj Kapoor with Akbar, Dilip Kumar with the pampered and rebellious Salim, Durga Khote with a Jodha Bai torn between husband and son, and Madhubala with Anarkali. But whenever you thought Mughal-e-Azam, it was of towering performances etched in black and white ' with that tantalising bit of colour that gave a feel of what the real thing could be.
While purists may argue that colour takes away from the classic, there's little doubt the new look leaves latterday love lores way behind.
Now, with Naushad's music recorded afresh to give Tansen's ragas the digital feel, over 100 hands working to lend colour to this tale of kings and courtesans and bring alive the pomp of the court, the gaiety and the gloom, and the glow on the ethereal beauty called Madhubala, Mughal-e-Azam means a dream.
Dream with your eyes open.