usa special
hyd scene

Some Ramblings - Mughal E Azam
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Just like it is with music where different "raagas" evoke (not convey) different emotions, languages exhibit similar trait. It feels that some expressions can only be expressed in a particular language to elicit the right response from the listener. French is termed as the language of romantics. Telugu is termed as the Italian of the East. Kannada is termed as "kastoori" (a fragrant) by scholars. It is not that the same terms do not exist in all of the different languages (more or less). And it is not that they do not have the same word to meaning associations in all these languages (more or less). It is just that the right word in the right language has the right amount of passion and the greater amount of willingness in trying to explain the emotion behind the word, not just the meaning. Take the case of the word "pyaar" (Hindi) which stands for love. Compare it with the word "mohabbat" (Urdu). Though both the words indicate the same meaning, the word "mohabbat" invokes more passion and tries to delve more into the emotion of the feeling than just convey a meaning. If French is the romantic of all the European languages, Urdu can certainly stake its claim as it's romantic counterpart when it comes to the Indian languages. Be it for the complexity of the language, be it for the judiciousness of the poet/writer in using a term in this language, be it because of the fact that it has been relegated to a particular community, Urdu hasn't found wide acceptance among the common populace and has always been relegated to "mushaayiraa"s and "anjuman"s. Because of the tenderness of the language and the sensitivity that lies there in, poets/writers still resort to the usage of Urdu to convey an emotion that is even remotely connected to beauty.

The situation is such, that Saleem (Dilip Kumar), heir to Akbar and his throne, is being regaled by a "qawwali" played back and forth by Anarkali (Madhubala) and Bahaar (Shashikala). The topic is "mohabbat" - Anarkali takes the side with it while Bahaar crosses swords with it. Observe the word play and the intensity involved in the meaning

The argument against

bahaarae aaj paigaam-e-mohabbat laekae aayee hai
muddat mein ummedOn kee kaliyaan muskuraayee hai
gam-e-dil se zaraa daaman bacchake ham bhee dekhenge
haa jee haa hum bhee dekhenge

Bringing along the message of true love
the glorious season had the flora bloom full
Escaping the heartbreak that would soon ensue (upon the leaving of the season eventually)
we would rather not engage than wreck our hearts in gloom

The argument for

agar dil gam se khaalee hO tO jeene ka mazaa kyaa hai
na hO khoon-e-jigar tO ashq peenae kee mazaa kya hai
mohabbat mae zaraa aansoo bahaakae hum bhee deekhenge
haa jee haa hum bhee daekhaenge

What's a heart whose pail is free of pain?
What's a pain without the warmth of the tears?
we would rather live a little in that warmth of love
than live forever knowing about none

When K.Asif (one of the writers-director) embarked upon Mughal-e-Azam, the conscious choice of the language for his expression as Urdu seemed quite fitting and natural enough, because of it's inherent characteristic of exhibiting exemplary beauty and devastating sadness, both at the same time. When love is the topic in question between the Salim and Anarkali and the situations call for a headstrong Prince falling deeply in love with a stunningly beautiful courtesan, the expression of choice has to be Urdu, for no language can come close to expressing the passion involved and the pathos that soon follows. The story juxtaposes passion and pain in the relationships between Saleem and Anarkali and Saleem and Akbar, with the intensity in each remaining the same. "mughalOn kee takdeer talwaarOn sae likee jaatee hai, tasweerOn sae naheen" screams Akbar at his disinterested son, "kaanTon kO pakaD ke phool kO apnee lahoo sae rangeen kardenge" dreams Anarkali when handed a rose by Saleem. The constant element of danger lurking around and looming large over the fortunes of the Saleem and Anarkali, pushes matters over the precipice when they start to cross swords with Akbar's pride and his visions for his son and for the country. In a strange way, the relationship between Akbar and Salim finds similarities in the paternal pride and ire of Hiranyakasipa and Prahlada. Both the fathers insist on passing on their ideologies as their legacies and both the sons resist from following their fathers in their footsteps. When Akbar meets Salim on the battleground, his paternal love, over his only son that he begets after longing for him for so long ("kitna bad naseeb baap hoon main, kee allah kee dua, apne baeTe kee paidaaishee tak hee rahee"), eats him up from inside, while he vacillates between disciplining his child and reasoning with them.

Prithvi Raj Kapoor, who breathes life into Akbar with his gruff yet gentle demeanor, parallels and reminds very much of SVR's affection and agony in "bhakta prahalaada". Here are two powerful men of their times unable to come to terms with their expectations vis-a-vis their children. On the other side, standing equally tall and holding his ground, Dilip Kumar excels at potraying the rebellious nature in Salim with the same intensity as when earning the affections of Anarkali, through the display of his never-shown tenderness and sensitivity ("moom kee batthee dinO mein is liyae bujh jaatee hain, taakee raat kee baton kO kisee kO bataane kee majboori nahee aaye"). Had the Indian Academy of Arts & Sciences never taken up the most difficult and challenging part of colorizing an old black and white movie, the audiences would never had a chance of gazing and wondering at the amazing graceful beauty of Madhubala in color. From the famous feather scene, where Salim ever so slowly moves the feather along Anarkali's face, while Tansen (in Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's voice) ecstacically renders "prema jOgan ban ke piyaa" in the background (which seems to the inspiration of the Mandolin sequence in Bapu's "muthyaala muggu", where Sridhar and Sangeeta get intimate over a montage), to the jaw dropping Sheesh Mahal sequence, when Anarkali challenges Akbar through the verse of "pyaar kiyaa tO Darnaa kyaa" in full court in front of her love interest, Madhubala lives the role of Anarkali, through bated breaths, repressed smiles, skewed looks and innocent eyes.

Not enough words could describe the poetry of Shakeel Badayuni, the lyricist.

chaayee hai museebat kee ghaTaa gaesuvOn vaale
lillah maeri Doobti kashtee kO bachaale
toofaan kee aasar hai dushwar hai jeena
bekas pe karam keejiye, sarkar-e-madeenaa

translating to

the clouds of gloom loom all over
save thy boat lest it tumble over
storm is setting in tough to get over
show the grace of mercy on me, O lord of Madinaa!

Such lyrical words set to the ever-lasting tunes of Naushad, go hand in hand with the literal words of Kamal Amrohi-K.Asif-Aman, creating a sense of authentic aura around a period that was buried and long lost. Thanks to the academy, all the moments and the words are in full splendor, in full glory and importantly, in full color!

More Ramblings on films
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

Tell Srinivas Kanchibhotla how you liked the article


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
emailabout usprivacy policycopy rightsidle stuff