Director: K. Asif; Writer: K. Asif, Kamal Amrohi, Ehsan Rizvi, Wajahat Mirza, Aman; Producer: Sterling Investment Corporation Pvt Ltd, Mumbai; Cinematographer: R.K. Mathur; Editor: Dharamvir, Aabhaas Communication; Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Madhubala (Begum Mumtaz Jehan), Dilip Kumar, Durga Khote, Nigar Sultana, Ajit, M. Kumar, Murad, Jilloo Maa, Vijayalaxmi, S. Nazir, Sheela Delaya, Surendra, Johnny Walker, Jalal Agha, Tabassum, Gopi Krishna, Sheila Dalaya, Jago, Khurshid Khan, Khanna, Khwaja Sabir, Pal Sharma
K. Asif’s classic megabudget spectacular and best-known historical romance was nine years in the making. Opening with the voice-over words ‘I am Hindustan’ spoken over a map of India, the film retells in flashback the popular story (cf. Loves of a Mughal Prince, 1928; Anarkali, 1953) of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (P. Kapoor) and his Rajput wife Joda Bai (Khote) who finally manage to have a son, Prince Salim (D. Kumar). Salim grows up into a weak and pleasure-loving youth. Having proved himself in battle, Salim receives a sculpture of a beautiful female slave. He falls in love with the ‘live’ statue, Anarkali (Madhubala), and wants to marry her. Akbar pressurises Anarkali to give up Salim, humiliating and imprisoning her, but to no avail: in the film’s best-known Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) sequence, shot in colour, she defies Akbar through song: Pyar kiya to darna kya (‘What is there to fear? All I have done is to love’, sung by Lata Mangeshkar). Salim remains devoted to her and disobeys his father to the point of rebelling against the emperor and challenging him to battle. Akbar defeats Salim and condemns him to death. Anarkali is allowed to sacrifice her life to save Salim. However, contrary to the legend which has Anarkali walled in alive, Akbar spares her unbeknown to Salim. The film is remembered mainly for Amrohi’s dialogues, esp. the confrontations between Kapoor and Kumar. Naushad’s music includes the songs by noted classical singer Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (Shubh din aaye and Prem jogan ke sundari pio chali) and Mathur’s expansive camerawork interrupts the statically and frontally shot dialogues (cf. R.D. Mathur, ‘Mughal-e-Azam and its Creator Mr K. Asif’, Lensight, 1993). Mahesh Bhatt (1993) drew attention to the memorable love scene 'shot in extreme close-ups of just faces in which Dilip Kumar tickles the impassioned face of Madhubala with a white feather. This was perhaps the most sensitively portrayed erotic scene on the Indian screen.
’Minimal Bollywood Art for Mughal-e-Azam