Aug 05 2016

Mughal-e-Azam anniversary: 21 things you didn't know about the epic

by   Keyur Seta

Filmmaker K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam completes 56 years of its release today. The classic, starring Dilip Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor and Madhubala, continues to rule audience hearts. The film has many off-screen stories attached with it. We look at a few.


Mughal-e-Azam is one of only two films that director K Asif managed to complete. The other was Phool (1944). He left behind two unfinished projects – Sasta Khoon Mehanga Paani and Love And God. The second one finally saw the light of day in 1986.


Shah Rukh Khan’s father, Taj Mohammad Khan, was initially offered the role of Man Singh. He refused since he wasn’t interested in acting in films.


Mughal-e-Azam was the first Indian film to be coloured and re-released. Its second release took place in 2004.


Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain was supposed to be part of the film. He once said, “I was considered for the role of the young Dilip Kumar. But the role was eventually played by Jalal Agha.”


The film took as long as 16 years to complete.


Pritiviraj Kapoor would look into a full-length mirror before every shot. When K Asif inquired about this, Kapoor said he did so in order to get into the skin of his character. Kapoor played the Mughal emperor Akbar.


Initially, Asif started shooting the film with Chandramohan, DK Sapru, and Nargis playing Akbar, Salim and Anarkali, respectively.


The chains tied to Madhubala were real and heavy. She insisted on using real chains as she wanted the pain on her face to look real. In fact, she refused to be released, even during breaks in between shots. This resulted in pain for days after the shoot. 


Dev Anand’s character in Kala Bazaar (1960) is shown selling tickets for Mughal-e-Azam’s premiere show on the black market.


In 1944, K Asif started shooting Mughal-e-Azam with Shiraz Ali as the financier. However, Ali migrated to Pakistan after Partition and the film remained incomplete.


When director Kamal Amrohi felt that Mughal-e-Azam would be shelved, he started his own film based on Salim and Anarkali’s love story. Sadly, even that film was shelved and Amrohi eventually re-joined the team of Mughal-e-Azam as one of the dialogue writers.


Producer Sashadhar Mukherji, under his banner Filmistan, made a film on the same story titled Anarkali in 1953, starring Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar. It turned out to be a major musical hit.


K Asif shot the iconic song ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ in colour. Impressed by the results, he shot a few more portions in colour. He then decided to reshoot the entire film in colour. However, the financiers and distributors lost patience. The final print was 85% in black and white and 15% in colour. 


The tickets for the film were sold out for seven weeks in advance at Bombay's Maratha Mandir. The film had an uninterrupted run of three years at the theatre. Passionate fans waited to book tickets in advance for days. Some even got family members to supply them food while they waited in queue, afraid that they would lose their place.


The tickets issued by Maratha Mandir contained pictures and trivia about the film. These tickets are now considered collector items.


When Mughal-e-Azam was first telecast in Amritsar on Doordarshan in 1976, all TV shops in Lahore ran out of stock since the Pakistani city would receive TV signals from Amritsar. Also, almost all flights from Karachi to Lahore were booked for 15 days prior to the telecast date.


The colour version of Mughal-e-Azam, which was released in India in 2004, was released in Pakistan in 2006. The film opened the doors for the release of Indian films in Pakistan, which had banned Indian films since the 1965 war.


The song ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ cost Rs1 crore to film, an amount that was considered exorbitant even for an entire film in that era.


The song was re-written around 105 times. Composer Naushad made Lata Mangeshkar sing the song in the studio bathroom to get the right reverberation.


Mughal-e-Azam remains the most expensive Indian film ever after adjusting for inflation and purchasing power parity. Director K Asif had the rich costumes stitched in Delhi and embroidered in Surat. The crowns were made in Kolhapur, the weapons in Rajasthan, and the shoes in Agra. The jewellery was brought in from Hyderabad. For the all-important war scene, the makers used 2,000 camels, 4,000 horses and 8,000 extras as soldiers; some of these extras were real soldiers from the Indian Army.


Mughal-e-Azam remained India's biggest box-office hit for 15 years, until a film called Sholay was released in 1975.