Mughal-e-Azam (The Greatest of the Moghuls) was a film that starred Prithviraj Kapoor as Emperor Akbar, Duga Khote as the Queen, Dilip Kumar as the young prince Salim (later to become Emperor Jehangir) and Madhubala as Anarkali, a court dancer with whom Salim falls so much in love with that he wants to make her his wife, the future queen of India. She only has to reckon with two things: Nigar Sultana as Bahar, a high-ranked court dancer who wishes to ascend to the throne; and the wrath of Mughal-e-Azam. Salim takes head on the wrath of his father and is defeated in war. His life is spared by Anarkali accepting to have nothing to do with him much against her heart’s desire, so that the emperor would spare Salim’s life. Finally, Anarkali’s life too is spared by the Emperor in gratitude for an earlier favour done to him by her mother. The movie was directed by K Asif and produced by Shapoorji Pallonji for a that-time-princely-budget of 1.5 Crores Rupees.


The movie was released on 5th Aug 1960 and big budget was not the only milestone of Indian Cinema that the movie crossed. It was considered so much of a classic in every respect that on 12 Nov 2004, it was released again in colour. The soundtrack of Mughal-e-Azam received universal acclaim from critics in India, and is often cited as one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood history. Shahid Khan, writing for Planet Bollywood, gave the soundtrack a perfect 10 out of 10 stars. In 2004, Subhash K. Jha reviewed the re-mastered release of the soundtrack, praising the technical quality of the re-release, and the original vocals of Lata Mangeshkar, whom he called the “Indian nightingale”.

The movie was not just crowning glory for Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar but also for the Lyricist, my favourite one, Shakeel Badayuni (of Mere Mehboob and Cahudhvin Ka Chand fame) and Music Director Naushad (Read: The Best of Old Hindi Songs: ‘Rafi, Shakeel, Naushad and Dilip Kumar Together‘). Its songs, therefore, became iconic and even today when we hear them, we think of the glorious rule of Emperor Akbar and the initially brazen but later tragic love story of Salim with Anarkali against impossible odds. Lets kick off the great songs of this ever great movie with Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya, the brazenness of the young Anarkali in the court of Emperor Akbar.

Bahar’s (Nigar Sultana’s) jealousy of Anarkali (Madhubala) and seeing in latter an unwanted competition for becoming the queen are brought out superbly by Shakeel Badayuni in this super number: Teri mehphil mein kismet aazmaan kar hum bhi dekhenge. Lata sang for Madhubala as in all other songs of the movie and Shamshad Begum sang for Bahar. Music is by Naushad who won the Best Music Award for the movie.

Lovers of that era often compared themselves with Krishna and Radha irrespective of their religion, so powerful was the fascination for Krishan leela. Salim and Anarkali were no exception. So when Anarkali was to bring out her feelings of ecstasy at Salim having given her the loving glance flirtation, she couldn’t help draw the contrast between Radha going to fetch water at the well and Krishan teasing her and even breaking her pitcher with a pebble.

Enjoy: Mohe panghat pe nandlal chhed gayo re…

Mughal-e-Azam swept the Filmfare Awards nominations for the year 1961 (the Indian equivalent of the Oscars): Best Film, Best Director (K Asif), Best Actress (Madhubala), Best Playback Singer (Female) (Lata Mangeshkar), Best Music (Naushad), Best Cinematography and Best Dialogues. It won in three categories: Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Dialogues. Bina Rai as Parvati/Jamuna in Ghunghat beat Madhubala to the award; however, critics acclaim Madhubala’s performance in Mughal-e-Azam as her best.

The God of Songs: Mohammad Rafi sang just one song in the movie and it was excellent indeed, more so because of Shakeel’s lyrics that conveyed exactly how Love conquers over everything including King of Kings, Riches and Power. Salim, after his defeat in war, is to be killed and one of the poor singers had to say that Love will eventually win.

Enjoy: Zindabad, zindabad, ai mohabbat zindabad…

This one is a very poignant song. Anarkali is finally allowed to marry Salim just for a night before he is decreed to be killed (unknowing to her) and she whisked away to dungeons.

Enjoy: Ye Dil Ki Lagi kam kya hogi ye ishq bhala kam kya hoga
Jab raat hai aisi matwaali phir subah kaa aalam kya hoga.

The contrast between the meaning of the words and what is destined for the lovers is as sharp as Robin Williams playing Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World in the midst of the carnage during the Vietnam War.

Enjoy: Ye dil ki lagi…

Madhubala, as Anarkali, is thrown into the dungeon for the offence of not only falling in love with Salim but also making Salim love her. Once there, it is natural for someone as young as her, to wonder if love always leads to misery, pain and agony (a la many years later in Mehboob Ki Mehndi: Jaane kyun log muhabbat kiya karte hain). Looking at the simplicity of this song (great songs always have simple words) one wonders if anyone other than Shakeel could have written this:

Khabar kya thi hontho ko seena padega
Mohabbat chhupa ke bhi jeena padega
Jiye to magar zindgaani pe roye
Mohabbat ki jhooti kahani pe roye…

I love the following number for its pain, agony, forlorness, frustration and defeat and mercy. The best thing about the number is, I feel, the lyrics by Shakeel bringing out exactly what Anarkali would be going through in the dungeon.

Enjoy: Bekas pe karam kijiye sarkar-e-madeena… and please pay attention to the lyrics for their greatness.

The above number would have clearly brought out  why Madhubala got nominated for the best Actress award for her role in the movie. Was it too late for Anarkali to sing: Hamen kaash tumase mohabbat naa hoti. I am repeating the lyrics of Shakeel Badayuni here so that you will get the full flavour of the beauty of the words.

Enjoy: Hamein Kaash Tumase Mohabbat naa Hoti…

Hamen kaash tum se muhabbat na hoti
 Kahaani hamaari haqeeqat na hoti
Na dil tum ko dete na majabur hote
 Na duniyaa na duniyaa ke dastur hote
 Qyaamat se pehale qyaamat na hoti
Hamin badh gaye ishq men had se aage
 Zamaane ne thokar lagaayi to jaage
 Agar mar bhi jaate to hairat na hoti
Tumhin phoonk dete nasheman hamaaraa
 Muhabbat pe ehsaan hotaa tumhaaraa
 Zamaane se koi shikaayat na hoti

Just before Anarkali is being taken for execution and before Emperor Akbar pardons her, this lovely song plays in the background. It is as poignant as it shows the big eyed beautiful Madhubala at the peak of her acting.

Enjoy: Kudaa nigehabaan ho tumhaaraa
 Dhadakate dil kaa payaam le lo
 Tumhaari duniyaa se jaa rahen hain
 Utho hamaaraa salaam le lo

The film has been used as a model for perfect love story in the years that followed. Filmmaker Subhash Ghai was quoted as saying that a film like this could 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.”

I saw thew movie with my parents and at the end of the movie I had decided that it is better to live and love than to “become something” that my father required of me!

I decided later that:

Ai ishq ye sab duniyaa vaale
 Bekaar ki baaten karate hain
 Paayal ke gamon kaa ilm nahin
 Jhankaar kii baaten karate hain
Har dil men chhupa hai pir koi
 Har paanv mein hai zanjeer koi
 Puchhe koi un se gam ke maze
 Jo pyaar ki baaten karate hain
Ulfat ke naye divaanon ko
 Kis tarah se koi samajhaaye
 Nazaron pe lagi hai paabandi
 Deedaar ki baaten karate hain
Bhanvare hain agar madahosh to kyaa
 Paravaane bhi hain khaamosh to kyaa
 Sab pyaar ke nagamen gaate hain
 Sab yaar ki baaten karate hain

Mughal-e-Azam was a great movie; its songs were great, its scenes were elegant. Finally the premiere of the movie was a grand event. Bombay’s Maratha Mandir where the premiere was held was decorated in the likeness of a mughal palace. The sheesh mahal set from the song jab pyaar kiya to darna kya was transported from the set to the theatre. Invitations were sent in the manner of royal scrolls on silk cloth. And finally when the film’s reel arrived, these arrived atop an ornate elephant to the tunes of bugles and shehnai. A great movie required great premiere indeed.

The premiere, the sets, the movie and even the story may be forgotten one day. But, Mughal-e-Azam had the songs that would never fade from our memories.

Yeh dil ki lagi kam kya hogi,
Yeh ishq bhala kam kya hoga?

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