BDC News

Ali Peter John

I was ten years old when my mother who was very fond of watching Hindi films,in spite of our poverty , took me and my brother to see a film called “Mughal-e-Azam”at the Neptune theatre outside the Bandra Station in Bombay .
I still remember how there were thousands of men, women and children , not only from Bombay , but from other parts of the country and there was even talk about thousands of people crossing the border and reaching Bombay from Pakistan only to see this film which was in the news for more than fifteen years as it was being made by the first and greatest Mr.Perfectionist of Indian cinema ,K.Asif
I don’t know how many more times
I must have seen the film in different theatres all over the country where I have travelled and on television in my own house , the homes of my friends and relatives and wherever I knew the film was screened …..

I have often wondered what that magic was that attracted and mesmerised me and millions like me to see the film as many times as possible . The film was released in 1960 and I still know every scene , every song and every dialogue ….

Sixty years have passed and I have now come to know why the film was and will be an eternal film .It is without doubt because of the seriousness and sincerity with which Asif made the film as his do or die film . Check out some of the details about the making of Mughal-e-Azam and you will respect Asif and his magnum opus all the more …..

Asif was an illetrate man ,but had a great liking for films , writing , poetry , music and hard work .
“Mughal-e-Azam ” was his ultimate ambition and dream .He knew the significance of good writting to make a good film .He employed some of the best writers in Urdu to work on the script and was the head of the team who were some of the most educated and enlightened writers .He was not satisfied with the work they did till they gave him the soul of Mughal-e-Azam……. He wanted every little thing in his film to be genuine and real .To start with ,he employed tailors , hundreds of them from Delhi to get all the costumes used by all the main characters and even faces in the crowd stiched by these tailors who worked day and night for months ….He needed the best embroidery on the costumes and got hundreds of embroidery workers from Surat which was known for its workers who specialised in embroidery of every kind and paid them much more than any King or Queen of that time would have paid them .

He was obsessed with having only the best in everything and was not willing to compromise when it came to getting the best …He wanted the crowns and headwear of every characters to be true to life and so he got the best crown makers from Kolhapur in Maharashtra were there were men who specialised in making crowns and head wear of every kind …

He wanted the most authentic weapons for which he hired
ironsmiths from Rajasthan to prepare all the iron and bronze weapons used by Akbar ,Salim and down to every soldier taking part in the massive war scenes .He had in a way , brought together several states of India to work on his film like one family,which no other filmmaker in India has ever done ..

He took nineteen takes of one dramatic scene between Prithviraj Kapoor (Akbar)and Salim (Dilip Kumar)and was still not satisfied and asked the great actor Prithviraj Kapoor to put on weight if he had to continue playing Emperor Akbar … Kapoor who had rarely taken directors seriously had to listen to Asif and he put on the weight Asif required and the result is the Akbar you see in the film .

The war scenes between the armies of Akbar and Salim involved two thousand camels , four thousand horses , eight thousand troops (which he partially got from the army) ,he had sought the cooperation of . There were also a number of elephants , especially for the use of Akbar and Salim …

The “Sheesh Mahal” took two long years to build on Asif’s own large studio in Andheri and during all this time ,there were thousands of people who came from all over only to see how the Mahal was being built . The producer Shapoorji Mistry had invited filmmakers from Hollywood and India to have their opinions about the creation of the “Sheesh Mahal” and they all said that it was just not possible to create the mirror effect in the scene but the more people said it was not possible , the more determined Asif was to make his dream a reality and he rested only when his dream came true .The colourful glass used to build the set was specially imported from Belgium …It is said that with the money Asif used to build the Mahal,he or any other filmmaker could have made an entire big film .

Asif needed no one else but Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to sing a song , but the Ustad was reluctant as he didn’t want to sing for films .He told Naushad , the music director about his inability to sing for Asif’s film Naushad asked him to quote a price no other singer or playback singer had ever charged …The Ustad asked Asif for a sum of twenty five thousand rupees and before the Ustad could blink ,Asif had agreed to pay him more than the price as he was demanding . You can imagine the value of twenty five thousand rupees in the early fifties !

The film had a song called “Ae mohabbat zindabad”.Asif wanted the song to echo in cinema halls and he shot the song live with one thousand singers before mikes .The impact of his decision can still echo in the minds of people .

There is a scene in the film when Jodhabai (Durga Khote)rocks the cradle of Bal Krishna .Asif wanted the statue of Bal Krishna to be made in pure gold and he had his way .The shooting was over and Asif thought of melting the statue of gold to earn some money . But his passion seemed to have rubbed off on Naushad too .He was a Muslim and yet he decided and took permission from Asif to allow him to take the statue to his house ,”Aashiyaana” in Bandra where the “kattar Musalman”
Naushad rocked the cradle of Lord Krishna till the last day of his life .And they talk about” Hindu -Muslim” unity now !

The song ,”Pyaar kiya toh darna kiya “was written by the lyricist Shakeel Badayuni hundred and one times before Asif and Naushad okayed it .

The chains in which Madhubala was bound were made of real iron ,so that Madhubala could give the most natural expressions of anguish and pain .

The most difficult part about making the film for Asif was to shoot the most romantic scenes shot in the history of Indian cinema, between Dilip Kumar and Madhubala who were not on talking terms almost throughout the making of the film . Who can ever forget the scene in which Anarkali is lying in the lap of Salim who is expressing his love for Anarkali by just looking into her eyes and running a feather over her beautiful face ?

The film which took sixteen years to make was finally released at the Maratha Mandir Theatre in Bombay in 1960.The capacity of the theatre was one thousand one hundred seats , but there was a crowd of one lac people who had gathered there for many days and nights before the date of the release .

The reels of the film were carried on the decorated backs of four elephants to the theatre .

Asif had finally fulfilled his dream, but he had to pay a very heavy price in every way .He was heavily in debt and didn’t even have money to buy his favourite cigarettes and paan and couldn’t even pay the rent of his house in Central Bombay .And yet the Mogul had a very big heart .The comedian Jagdeep who had just started his career was completely broke and needed money .He decided to walk all the way from Bandra where he lived to Asif’s house and told him about his desparate condition .Asif went into his room even as his family members tried to tell him that there was no money even to buy vegetables in the house ,but Asif went in and put his hands in all his pockets and took out all the money ,he had and gave it to Jagdeep and told his family that Jagdeep’s need was more than his or his family’s.

Asif tried to make other films like “Sastaa Khoon Mehngaa Paani”with Rajendra Kumar and Saira Banu , but he couldn’t complete it .He started” Love and Bird”with Guru Dutt and Nimmi , but Guru Dutt committed suicide .He started the film again with Sanjeev Kumar and Nimmi but Asif himself died .
K.C.Bokadia , his fan tried to complete the film as a token of respect for him , but Sanjeev Kumar also died.And the film was released in its incomplete version and as expected was a very miserable flop ……

The story of K.Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam can never end .And Asif’s attitude towards money can be best seen in this simple but real story .Asif and Sanjeev Kumar who had grown into the best of friends were traveling in Sanjeev ‘s Mercedes in Juhu . Sanjeev asked Asif why he couldn’t buy some land in Juhu where stars like Dharmendra and film makers like Ramanand Sagar , Mohan Kumar and J.Om Prakash had bought land,Asif had a long puff at his cigarette which he always held in the cusp of his thumb and his little finger and said ,”Mere bhai,hum yaha film banaane aye hai , Zameen kharidne aur Mahal banaane nahi”…….

A few months later ,Asif died in a two bedroom apartment in the Sea Breeze Apartments in Juhu and he had nothing to leave behind , except the unaccountable treasure of Mughal-e-Azam

Aisa Deewana Shahenshah na pehle kabhi huwa tha ,na kabhi hoga .Ye mera yaakin hai jo kabhi badal nahi sakta aur koi badal bhi nahi sakta


This is a saga of one man that can make the non-believer believe , this is the saga of a man that can make the belief of a believer stronger , this is a saga that can make those who don’t believe in the designs of destiny believe in destiny…..

Karimuddin Asif was a small -time tailor as a young man somewhere in lucknow who came to Bombay to try his luck in Hindi films and his power to tell stories in a powerful way helped him fulfill his dream fast and he started directing films soon .

He had heard of a play called “Anarkali ” written by a writer in pre-partition days and was obsessed with the idea of making his own film based on the same story .

Asif got together a team of writers which included Aman (who was the father of Zeenat Aman ), Wajahat Mirza and Ehsan Rizvi to write a script for his film which he called “Mughal-e-Azam”.He had decided to give the story of “Anarkali” his own interpretation . He himself gave ideas to his writers even though he was not a writer , but his writers knew that he was a maker obsessed with his story . The music director Naushad was also a part of the writing team , but none of the writers got any individual credit .

Asif had zeroed down on Prithviraj Kapoor to play Akbar and Dilip Kumar to play Salim . He was now waiting to find the right actress to play “Anarkali ” . His first choice was Nutun who didn’t want to play the role and told Asif that her contemporaries like Nargis and Madhubala would be better to play the role . Asif then issued a full page ad in “Screen”(I felt proud to belong to the paper when I saw the ad in the archives ). The ad asked girls all over India to write to Asif if they were interested in playing Anarkali opposite Dilip Kumar.There were hundreds of applicants and Asif selected eight girls but was ultimately not satisfied with any of them .He had some differences with Madhubala and was surprised when Madhubala herself walked upto him and told him that she wanted to play Anarkali. And Asif had found his Anarkali

Asif had problems finding finanace to make his dream film till he was asked to meet a renowned businessman who had nothing to do with films and his name was Shapoorji Mistry who had only one intrest in films and that was to see Prithviraj Kapoor in the plays he did under his banner, Prithvi Theatre .
Asif saw some of the plays of Prithvi Theatre and met Shapoorji and told him about his paln to make “Mughal-e-Azam”with Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar and gave him a narration of the subject which arouse the intrest of Shapoorji who agreed to finance Asif’s film.And then began a long partnership between Asif and Shapoorji which lasted till the completion of the film . They had several differences, they even had verbal wars, but Asif and his passion to make “Mughal-e-Azam ” triumphed and Shapoorji ended up calling Asif his son

Shapoorji had literally poured in crores of rupees in the making of the film and Asif had spent every rupee in giving shape to his dream film, without ever thinking of spending any money in buying a proper house for himself and his family or buying a car(he traveled in a taxi all his life)

Among those who understood his “madness “and walked with him all the way were music director Naushad , lyricist Shakeel Badayuni , cinematographer R.D.Mathur, art director Shiraazi and all his other artists and technicians. And, off course his family without whose constant support he would not have
been able to make “Mughal-e-Azam”.

He had the satisfaction of seeing his most cherished dream fulfilled . Shapoorji made crores . All his stars and his entire team went on to be celebrated names . But , Karimuddin Asif was the same man who had started with a dream which would make the future remember him , but had to be happy living his own life his own way without making any kind of a good life for himself and his family .A friend who had seen him months after “Mughal-e-Azam” had made history found him walking down a lane in his white pyjama and kurta standing at a paan -beedi shop asking for a packet of cigarettes he puffed , the only bad habit he had .

Why has the governments from the time of the release of “Mughal-e-Azam “not found K.Asif capable to receive any kind of award or recognition when puny and pygmy-like actors, film makers and singers are honoured with awards that are slowly loosing all their importance and meaning ? Can’t the government now in power prove how much it cares for true talent and how secular it is and honour the “deewana”at least now ? It is a time when it can be still done or it will be a time when generations to come and history will curse all those who have not recognised the greatness of a man who gave his entire life to give Indian cinema all the reasons to be proud ?

(This story has not been edited by BDC staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed from IANS.)
Writers are welcome to submit their articles for publication. Please contact us through Contact Us in the Menue
More Stories
Received a new high as an actor while doing 'Traffic': Divya Dutta