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'Mughal-e-Azam' goes colour in new avatar
By Subhash K Jha, IANS
K. Asif's magnum opus "Mughal-e-Azam" is considered by most cineastes to be one of the most evocative dramas in the history of Indian cinema.
Now, the 1960 epic chronicling the love story of Prince Salim, who went on to become the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and commoner Anarkali -- which took over a decade to complete and is considered one of the historical milestones in Indian cinema -- is all set get a renewed life on celluloid.
This Diwali, when Asif's opulent and arresting opus is re-released across the country, it will shine in a full colour version.
The original film shot by the inimitable R.D. Mathur was largely in black-and-white, with only a handful of scenes in colour.
"What people don't know is that Asif saab shot some portions of the film in colour, not just the immortal song 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya', but also the last four reels of the film," said Deepak Salgia, the director of the project to colourise "Mughal-e-Azam".
"In fact if the director had his way, the whole film would've been shot in colour."
The grand spectacle, the lavish songs and the breathtaking beauty of Madhubala render themselves remarkably to a colour scheme that takes the epic beyond the black and white shades of the original.
Salgia said: "We've in many ways done what K. Asif desired. By converting the entire film into colour we've given 'Mughal-e-Azam' a completely new relevance."
And those who have seen the new coloured avatar of the epic are going into raptures about it. The verdict on what can be called creative intervention is completely and unanimously positive.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whom many regard as a successor to Asif's epic grandiosity of vision, has seldom been so excited about the release of any film. "I've seen the colour clippings on TV. And I must confess I'm dying to see the new version of 'Mughal-e-Azam'."
Bhansali doesn't often see films. But this Diwali, he says nothing can stop him from being in the nearest theatre where Asif's dream project is being resurrected in ravishing shades.
Most opinions in the industry indicate a huge curiosity for this experiment with a film classic. And though some cineastes are sceptical about tampering with the original vision of its creator, those who have seen the end product swear Asif couldn't have done it better himself.
Salgia said: "You've no idea how this colour version has come into being. Since there's no technique available to convert a black-and-white film into colour, we had to literally pour over every frame. Every shot had to be hand corrected.
"Every drop of colour that you'll see in 'Mughal-e-Azam' has been achieved through hand-craft rather than machines."
Such an achievement is not just rare but completely unheard of in the history of Indian cinema. What sort of audience are the architects of the new "Mughal-e-Azam" hoping to attract?
Salgia said: "There will be those who have seen the film over and over again. Then there'll be the new generations who want to see Madhubala and her chemistry with Dilip Kumar.
"When they see the legendary romance in newly recorded Dolby Digital surround sound, they'll certainly experience a new thrill. Plus there's Naushad Saab's immortal music which we've just released in a new Dolby Digital recording."