Will 'Mughal-e-Azam' revive costume dramas?
The warm reception accorded to the re-release of K. Asif's timeless classic "Mughal-e-Azam" may open the floodgates to a new wave of costume dramas.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Several of today's filmmakers have had costume dramas and love legends in mind, but not many have dared to go ahead with their projects, fearing poor audience response.
Akbar Khan has been sitting idle with his love legend "Taj Mahal" for many months now, while Raj Kumar Santoshi wants to make the love legend of the Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan and Sanjukta with Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's dream project is "Bajirao Mastani", chronicling the tumultuous relationship between the Maratha king and his unlikely adversary.
The success of "Mughal-e-Azam" may just give them the needed confidence to go ahead.
We already have two important costume dramas readying for release.
In Subhash Ghai's "Kisna", Vivek Oberoi in the title role plays a pre-independence fighter romancing an Indian and a British woman, while Ketan Mehta's historical "The Rising" has Aamir Khan with Rani Mukherjee who plays a prostitute.
Costume dramas were a thriving genre in the 1950s and 1960s. Asif himself made his directorial debut in 1944 with "Phool", a lavish epic for its time.
It took him 16 years to release his next film. Members of the "Mughal-e-Azam" cast died and had to be replaced. The hero Chandra Mohan was replaced by Dilip Kumar.
Madhubala herself, immortalised as Anarkali in the movie, was dying of a heart problem and doctors had forbidden her from carrying those heavy iron chains that her character wears in captivity.
Her performance bears shades of Meena Kumari's swan song in Kamal Amrohi's "Pakeezah", into which the actress poured her heart and soul while dying of a lever ailment.
Prior to Asif's opus, Nandlal Jaswantlal's "Anarkali" in 1953 depicted the same star-crossed love story of prince Salim and Anarkali and became a huge success. Just like "Mughal-e-Azam" seven years later, the music, and the songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar, played a large hand in the film's success.
If in "Mughal-e-Azam" viewers showered coins at the iconic Madhubala dancing to "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya", in "Anarkali" they did the same for Bina Rai singing "Zamana Yeh Samjha Ke Hum Pee Ke Aaye".
Soon after "Mughal-e-Azam", Asif launched another love tragedy "Love & God", based on the legend of Laila and Majnu. Halfway through, the male protagonist Guru Dutt passed way. He was replaced by Sanjeev Kumar and the film was finally released in 1983.
Between "Mughal-e-Azam" and "Love & God" there were a number of successful costume drama/love legends, including M. Sadiq's "Taj Mahal" in 1963 featuring the Anarkali pair of Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz.
Other popular costume dramas of the 1960s include "Raj Kumar" featuring Shammi Kapoor in the title role and "Suraj" starring Rajendra Kumar.
But none was as successful as "Mughal-e-Azam". And the rush to watch its re-release only confirms its status as Indian cinema's most enduring love story.
"From Mallika Sherawat, everyone seems to have suddenly switched loyalties to mallika-e-husn (queen of beauty) Madhubala," says a Bihar distributor who earlier made neat profits exhibiting the kitschy "Tauba Tauba".
"'Mughal-e-Azam' has got youngsters who so far seemed sold on flesh entranced by the draped elegance of the Venus Of Indian cinema."