Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

November 3, 2007 at 12:35 am 12 comments

Name: Mughal-E-Azam (The Great Mughal)

Starring: Dilip Kumar, Madhubala & Prithviraj Kapoor

Director: K. Asif

Language: Hindi

Did I watch this recently? Yes


The film is a re-telling of a popular Indian tale Anarkali. It is loosely based on an episode in the life of the Prince Salim (only son of Emperor Akbar & Queen Jodha) played by Dilip Kumar. Salim falls in love with Anarkali (Madhubala). He wants to marry her; his father objects, and throws Anarkali into prison. Anarkali refuses to reject Salim. Salim revolts against his father. Emperor Akbar is a man torn between his duties (as Emperor Akbar leader of the Mughal Empire within India) and love for his son Salim.


Mughal-E-Azam is a Bollywood Classic that is a must for any bollywood fan. However for me its very over hyped, but i can certainly see how it became the second biggest hit of all time. Although it relies on little historical facts, its has enough to make you forget its largely inaccurate historically but has been taken from a popular legend. At the time the film took 500 days to make (huge even by todays standard) and was the costliest film to date (taking into account inflation).

Mughal-E-Azam’s story is a Cinderella type one. The courtesan falls for the Prince. But imagine Cinderella as less happy Disney, but more over the top emotion and language. Someone might describe Fast and The Furious as ‘high octane action’, i would describe Mughal-E-Azam as ‘high octane emotion and colour’. Everything this movie does its on a grand scale.

The movie demonstrates Emperor Akbar as torn between tradition and upholding his principles for the love of his son (who wants to marry a slave girl). I think this can be related to Indians aswell of upholding ones honour and duty over love. Sometimes its a case of marrying someone of lower class/caste to which the family objects to or marrying someone of a different religion. There is definitely relatability between Salim’s struggle to marry for love and Akbar’s struggle to make his son understand the importance of duty and honour.

I love to watch Madhubala in movies – especially in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi! Her screen presence and charisma was an absolute joy to watch on screen. For me i would put her just below Waheeda Rehman as my favourite classic movie actress. But I’m not sure if its the fact the movie was recoloured from black and white to colour, but she is missing at times the beauty I saw from earlier films. But there is still plenty of times where she was gorgeous to watch (as seen by screen captures). Out of all the actors I would say most of the time she did the best performance – i blame her character more then anything for the downsides.

The lack of life in Madhubala can largely be attributed to the character of Anarkali (Madhubala). It’s historically set so it can be more then forgiven why the character is so powerless but it can still be tedious to watch the character. Either Anarkali is pining silently and listlessly after the prince or she is fainting whenever a drama has happened (so often!) or she is singing a crying song or she looks like shes dying or she is waiting for the prince to rescue her. Luckily though she finds courage in many important parts – the best of which is when she sings ‘Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’, one of my favourite songs. It roughly translates to ‘when one has loved, why should they be afraid’. I could listen and watch that song over and over again.

Dilip Kumar as Salim (the prince) is courageous, but has the personality of a wet mop and looks largely uncomfortable at times. Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in real life were involved at this time so its hard to understand why he was so awkward in the role. There are positive parts to him though – how strong and true he is of his love. But overall he has monotone emotions – the same emotional look for when he is angry, happy, sad, everything. I think Abhishek must have studied Dilip Kumar’s historical character for when prepping for his role in Umrao Jaan.

Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar can show the emotional father side and strong emperor side of Akbar well. But he largely overplayed it. His performance was always over the top. But i guess that just comes with the style of the movie aswell.

BUT despite the flaws – i still enjoyed it! The good parts mostly outweight the annoying parts. At 3 hours long, one really has to care about the characters to stay tuned that long. Although its not really explained or reasoned why Anarkali and Salim have such strong love for each other but one does feel very strongly for them. Theres really only one real storyline in this movie – Salim & Anarkali trying to be together but Akbar won’t let it happen. Which for 3 hours can get tiresome, but the songs and the emotions are so strong that someone like me just gets sucked right in.

Mind you, I did feel the trudge at times. Because Mughal-E-Azam is historical, the dialogue has been made in that context. Anyone who has seen BBC’s Pride and Prejudice or any historical movies will know that certain more ‘high fluting’ language will be used. But i think the movie would be only 2 hours instead of 3 if everyone just came out and said what they wanted to say instead of always saying everything in metaphors, poetry or flowery language. To be expected but can be a annoying at times to us mere mortal viewers.

Some little side thoughts, for anyone who has seen 40 days and 40 nights with Josh Hartnett will give themselves a little giggle at seeing the Salim & Anarkali scene with the feather.

Overall Score: 3.5/5 Hairy Anil Kapoors – Overall you have to see it. I had really high expectations of it and despite the overall let down I was still enthralled by it. I think some who hear that its the 2nd biggest blockbuster will think ‘why!’. The answer was it had never been done like this before when it came out. I don’t think its as great as people make it out to be, but its dramatic and romantic and definitely something a Bollywood fan has to see. It’s like going to India and not seeing the Taj Mahal.

Some other Screencaps:

I think Anarkali might have a low blood pressure problem.

Others –




Entry filed under: 3 Star Movies, Excel God Reviews, Movie Reviews. Tags: , , .

Rajesh Khanna – Family, Fame & Facts Dilip Kumar – Family, Fame & Facts

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rishi  |  November 8, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Your saying “I think most who hear that its the 2nd biggest blockbuster will think ‘why!’.” is presumptuous to say the least. The movie is considered to be the very best to come out of India not only by laymen but also the critics. The answer is not only that it had never been done before, but that it has never been done since too. What can explain the fact that it was a hit when it was released again after 44 years. You do not like the move – fine, but think before writing statements which presume other peoples opinions, and at the same time impugn the choice made by of movie going public half a century ago.

  • 2. dw007  |  November 9, 2007 at 12:10 am

    Thats intended for more people who are new to bollywood and hear as an outsider its 2nd biggest blockbuster, will be wondering. I myself as an outsider and from the other newbies to bollywood i have spoken to have found shared a similar opinion.

    A movie is a context of its time. Same way a newbie to hollywood can be shown Gone with the wind and they wonder why it was such a big hit. MEA is a hit 44 years on due to nostalgia and the fact it was a good movie. Sound of Music gets played every year on TV and many people tune into watch it – there is something everlasting about these films and same with MEA. Elements of the movie such as ‘Jab Pyaar Kiya toh darna kya’ and end scenes are immortal and will live on in peoples memories.

    Overall i did like the film (hence the 3.5/5 stars). But yes everyone is different so its hard to make generalized statements. I gathered my opinion only from what i have encountered from others, but of course its impossible to speak for everyone. So i changed it to ‘some may be wondering why!’ 🙂

  • 3. Rishi  |  November 9, 2007 at 6:16 am

    Maybe I was harsh on your review of the movie, it does happen to be my all time favourite. I do not know if you have lived in India, but, being an Indian, in my opinion this is the kind of movie that resonates strongly with the Indian psyche, it has this air of nostalgia both of the time it was made and the history of the subcontinent. Add to that the fact that it was an unparalleled achievement given its perfection in all departments from cinematography to music to acting. Much of which have not been replicated in Indian cinema till today. I will make special mention of the dialogues of the movie – they are the finest to have been spoken in Indian films and they are truly impactful with all their subtelities to a native speaker of Hindi/Urdu. Which other movie, except for maybe Sholay, is such that you can watch it with family/friends and recite dialogues and sing its songs along. For me its the epitome of Indian cinema.

  • 4. Rishi  |  November 9, 2007 at 7:38 am

    By the way, I do appreciate your blog, and the reviews you have written for other movies along with MeA. I hope you will continue to enjoy Indian cinema and keep writing your opinion on movies. Please do not take this personally, but I find your comment that Anarkali might have a blood pressure problem a bit distasteful and mocking the performance of Madhubala, which I consider among the finest. Especially since she was suffering from a heart problem and had undergo a painful ordeal while shooting for this movie, she frequently vomitted blood and even fainted on the sets. I am sure you did not mean any disrespect to her but I thought I would just express my opinion about this. You can remove my comment/rant if you want to from your blog.

  • 5. dw007  |  November 9, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Hi rishi. I can only really write as an outsider looking in, therefore when i watch this movie its objective from any nostalgia or the indian psyche.

    I do agree that the dialogue is beautifully expressed, but alas once it gets translated to subtitles for me i’m sure its lost alot in translation and with the high flueting english words can feel less romantic and more long winded. I’m sure its different in its original language. As you say you can recite dialogue and songs with family/friends, same way i do for hollywood classics. But for me i watch this from the outside looking in so that needs to be taken into account.

    Sorry when i said about the blood pressure thing i honestly didn’t think of the actors heart problem. More was referencing the fact Anarkali the character fainted whenever any drama happened. But the fact is its not because of Madhuabala the person why her character fainted, its because of the writers/director wanting her to feebly faint. So i’m sorry that the comment draws parellels to Madubala the person, but its character i’m referring to.

    Its alright i won’t delete your blog, its good to have a discussion from both sides of viewers – indian who has grown up watching it and a non-indian seeing it for the rest time.

  • 6. Richard S.  |  May 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hi. I wasn’t sure how else to contact you about this, but… I just wanted to mention that I really like the Anarkali-fainted picture above on the right, and I might want to make that the top picture in my own blog sometime soon. But since I saw it here first, just thought I’d run that by you…

    P.S. I grew up in New York City, and I loved this movie.

  • 7. dw007  |  May 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    hey richard,

    Thanks for asking, the picture is all yours.

    Glad to see you love this movie, i’m sure most people would agree with you.

  • 8. Richard S.  |  May 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks, dw007. Though I’m not sure if I’m going to use it so soon after all; we’ll see.

    BTW, when I said I loved it, I wasn’t objecting to your not loving it so much, nor would I say it was my absolute favorite, but I did greatly enjoy it.

    Your criticisms seem legit enough too – and certainly you know enough about Bollywood movies and appreciate them enough. Clearly we have things in our own “psyches” that cause us to take to Bollywood a lot (and probably Kollywood, etc., too), even if we haven’t ever lived in India.

  • 9. dw007  |  May 22, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Oh don’t get me wrong i really like this movie as well. Although i said it was a let down from the massive hype, i was generally enthralled by the film. Its the type of film that has some issues but overall there is something that really emotionally grabs you about this film. You can’t help but get sucked in.

    Yeah if someone had to ask me why i like bollywood, i really couldn’t express ‘why’. There is something that captures you about the experience of a bollywood movie that even if your not india you can totally fall in love with.

    Anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • […] and I did enjoy it quite a bit.  I even proclaimed my love for the film during a discussion at The Bolly Blog.  However, I have to say that I loved Shree 420 much more.  From the Bollywood movies […]

  • […] and I did enjoy it quite a bit.  I even proclaimed my love for the film during a discussion at The Bolly Blog.  However, I have to say that I loved Shree 420 much more.  From the Bollywood movies […]

  • 12. Anonymous  |  August 28, 2008 at 7:55 am


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Welcome to the Bolly Blog! The Bollywood Blog for New and Old Fans of Bollywood! This site is quite new so i'm updating profiles and reviews as i can. Check out the Excel God's Movie Reviews for random reviews on films from the 40s-now. Or there are the movie or actors index to search by. There are also profiles to help you know the facts about your favourite stars. I hope to add a news section to this blog in the upcoming year.


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