It is not clear whether the enchanting/captivating story of Salim-Anarkali is a myth or reality but it has captured interest of people over generations.
Whenever we think of grandeur and opulence in Indian cinema, K Asifís Mughal-E-Azam (MEA) comes to mind. Forty five years down the line, the magic of MEA has not dimmed a whit. And now the magnificence has come true in all color that dreams are made of. To achieve this magical truth, US $ 1 million were spent, but that is another story.
Film maker K Asif made only four films in his entire career span, and we can understand why Ė MEA was in the making for seventeen years. Seeing the movie, it is well worth the wait. K Asif was a visionary much ahead of his times. MEA was released in 1960 with a price tag of US$ 3 million!! The most expensive film ever made in Bollywood. It ran for three years straight at that time and today, has been running for over hundred days straight in several cities in India. The movie releases in the US and the UK on April 1. MEA has all the elements needed for a successful Bollywood film Ė romance, tragedy, drama, palace intrigue; you name it and yes, great songs too.
The movie is set in late 1500ís, Mughal Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor, the great grand father of Karisma and Kareena Kapoor) and his Hindu queen, Jodha (Durga Khote) are blessed with a son, Salim (Dilip Kumar) after years of prayer. There is no limit to Emperorís joys who promises the maid bearing news of Salimís birth any reward she would like during her life time. Little did he know how that promise would be invoked later.
Salim metamorphoses from a spoilt teenager into a courageous warrior after fourteen years of rigorous military training and warfare. He is welcomed back in the palace, where, he promptly falls in love with a beautiful courtesan, Anarkali (Madhubala). Obviously, this is too bitter a pill for the Emperor to swallow. Akbar tries his utmost to break apart the lovers. Pressure tactics, dungeons, threat to life; nothing seems to work its fear on Anarkali. True love seems to conquer all, well almost. Salim, tired of his fatherís ruthless interventions, declares rebellion, in an act of final defiance. However, this is one legendary tale where might is right. Salimís rebellion is quelled. Emperor Akbar sentences his heir, Salim to death. However, eternal love changes the course of history when Anarkali renounces her life to save Salim. Does she live to tell her tale or is she buried alive? And what about the Emperorís promiseÖ.. It is the proverbial million dollar question to which history may not have any answer but cinema does provide one.
MEAís music has truly played an important role in its phenomenal success. In this epic love story, Naushadís melodies paired with Shakeel Badayuniís lyrics were unbeatable. The rest of the trick was done by Kamal Amrohiís majestic dialogues. All actors did complete justice to their characters. Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar was apt with his overbearing and verbose persona. He was truly an Emperor. Dilip Kumar portrayed the warrior-lover with his restrained passion and well modulated dialogue delivery. And who could fault Madhubala for being breathtakingly beautiful? Her tragedy seemed ours as she varies between shades of despair and promises of love.
Today after forty five years MEA holds the power to draw young and old alike. It is a must see, be it as a part of new pop culture or an attempt to revisit youth. Even as we watch the drama of history unfold in color, a bittersweet nostalgia for black and white cinema creeps in, where emotions were simply marked by play of shadows.