New Delhi: It has been half a century since ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ first enchanted audiences with its majestic sets, elaborate dance sequences and soulful music. But K. Asif`s magnum opus continues to inspire Bollywood directors and technicians.
The epic, which was released Aug 5, 1960, chronicles the love story of Prince Salim, who went on to become Mughal emperor Jahangir, and Anarkali, a court dancer.
The film took almost a decade to complete and the attention paid to intricate details such as the `sheesh mahal`, or palace of mirrors, were proof enough of the labour that went into creating the masterpiece.
Actor Prithviraj Kapoor`s royal sketch of Akbar, Naushad`s music, Shakeel Badayuni`s unforgettable lyrics and the sizzling chemistry between the lead pair Madhubala and Dilip Kumar are part of film legend in India now.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai feels a movie like ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ can never be repeated. " `Mughal-e-Azam` is an all-time classic and has been the ultimate love story in Hindi cinema at all levels. So it will always remain alive for generations to come," Ghai told reporters.
"Till today, there is no match to Dilip Kumar`s and Madhubala`s ultimate chemistry on screen as the love legends," he added.
The elaborate sets of Akbar`s palace and choice of clothes of all characters were as authentic as possible. Immense care was taken to ensure that the film seemed close to chronicled reality.
Tailors were especially hired from Delhi to stitch the costumes and specialists from Surat-Khambayat were employed for the embroidery, even as goldsmiths from Hyderabad designed the period jewellery. Kolhapuri craftsmen designed the crowns adorned by the actors, Rajasthani ironsmiths crafted the weapons and the elaborate footwear was ordered from Agra.
A Lord Krishna idol in one scene was actually made out of real gold. Also, the jewellery that Rani Jodhabhai, played by late actress Durga Khote, wore, was designed in the authentic Rajasthani style of that era - such was the magnitude of the film 50 years ago.
Art director Omung Kumar, who has designed film sets for "Black", "Yuvraaj" and "Saawariya" among others, says art directors look up to this film for inspiration even today.
"We look up to `Mughal-e-Azam` as a source of inspiration when it comes to art direction. The film has a lot to learn from for people like us. The grand sets depict the culture and legacy of that era. The typical Rajwada palace and iconic sheesh mahal, where the classic song `Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya` was shot, are still remembered," he said.
He points to the mastery required to film a sequence with mirrors all over and feels it is quite a daunting task for a filmmaker even in today`s technologically advanced days.
"Creating a set as grand as seen in the film is not an easy task. I was amazed to see how filmmakers shot the scene where tiny images of Madhubala dancing on `Pyar Kiya....` appear on small mirrors engraved without a slight reflection of the camera. It helps us understand different camera angles," he added.
The original film shot by the inimitable R.D. Mathur was largely in black-and-white, with only a handful of scenes in colour. But the film was re-released across the country in full colour version in 2009.
If ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ is ever remade, Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor says she would love to play the role of Anarkali.
"I love `Mughal-e-Azam`. It is one of my favourite films and I would love to play Anarkali`s role if and when such a role is offered to me. I think Abhishek Bachchan would look really good as Salim and Amitabh Bachchan, without a doubt, as Akbar," she said.
But like Subhash Ghai says, "Classics just happen and they are not designed."