Name: Mughal-E-Azam (The Great Mughal)
Director: K. Asif
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.