The Best Historical Love Epic of Hindi Cinema, Mughal-e-Azam

If you are fond of Indian history, particularly history of Mogul times, of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, you will remember the name of king Jehangir, who was father of king Shahjehan. King Jehangir was famous for his justice and his romantic nature. He was in intense love with one of his mother’s servants, Anarkali. The love story of Jehangir, who was known as Salim in his youth, has been very famous in the Indian history. There are many bollywood Hindi movies filmed on this eternal love story, but the most famous and the artistic film is Mughal-e- Azam. The movie was released in the year 1960. It was produced and directed by well-known director K. Asif. It took nine long years to make this epic romance film. This film was one of the most lavish productions of its time. The film initially had a lukewarm response from the Indian crowd, but it quickly gathered momentum, eventually becoming one of the most celebrated and successful films in the history of Indian cinema.

The story of the film begins with king Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor) going on foot for a long distance of around 100 miles from Delhi to Fathehpur Sikri, where the majar of holy Sheikh Salim Chisti was situated to beg for a son, as he was not having any children. His wife, maharani Jodhabai (Durga Khote), gave birth to a boy after this visit due to the blessings of the holy sheikh Salim Chisti. King Akbar gives promise to give anything she wants to one of the servants of rani Jodhabai who conveyed him the most blessed news of birth of his son. The boy, named Salim, grows up and is found to be romantic and vagabond drinking alcohol and playing with the girls. King Akbar gets extremely angry on seeing this and sends him to war to keep him away from all the lavish items of a king. He grows up and becomes a very brave man later in his youth. King Akbar calls him back and makes him his successor to his mogul kingdom. Salim (Dilip Kumar) meets Anarkali (Madhu Bala), daughter of one of the servants of maharani Jodhabai.

Salim falls immediately in love with her. He wants to marry her but his father king Akbar objects, as Anarkali was a slave and a dancer. He puts her into prison. Anarkali refuses to leave Salim at any cost. Salim revolts against his father, is bitten in the battle with his father, and sentenced to death by his father Akbar. Anarkali buys the life of Salim with her own and she is being buried alive in the wall. Anarkali’s mother begs for the life of her daughter by reminding king Akbar, his old promise given to her. Akbar relents and exiles Anarkali from her death sentence. However, this is not made public and Salim is left to believe that Anarkali is dead. The lovers remain separated through the rest of their lives.

In spite of such a simple story, the film is an epic due to the most memorable acting performances of Dilip Kumar as prince Salim, great Prithviraj Kapoor as king Akbar, Durga Khote as maharani Jodhabai, and Madhu Bala, as Anarkali. They were all simply fantastic in their own roles and are remembered even today after around 50 years of the release of the film. The film’s best dance sequence of “pyar kiya to darna kya” takes place in palace of mirrors of the famous Lahore fort. This dance is simply out of the world. The famous Hindustani classical and Thumari singer Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sang two classical songs for the film in the voice of great Tansen. The music composed by famous music director Naushad is most melodious. All the songs of the film are super hits, even today. Dilip Kumar and Madhu Bala, both got Film Fare awards for their superb performances. Naushad was also nominated for the best music director of the year for evergreen music of this film. The impressive Hindi/Urdu dialogues, written by Kamal Amrohi were superb, giving the film an excellent penetrating quality. The film grossed over 55 million rupees at that time. It was India’s top-grossing film until the year 1975, when film Sholay became a big hit. The film was in black and white except for the two major song sequences, which were shot in Eastman color. A fully colorized version of the movie was released in the year 2004 and it also was a great success.

Mughal-e-Azam is still considered one of the best Hindi movies in the history of Hindi cinemas. All the theaters have to use their houseful boards (no tickets available), when this film is released, even now. If you have still not seen this film, you are missing one of the most memorable moments of your life.