Lesser known facts of Mughal-e-Azam, the legendary movie.

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Mughal e Azam is considered one of the epic movies in the history of Bollywood. Its been 56 years , that the movie released on the silver screen, and became an instant hit. Presented here are a few facts about the movie, that are less known to the layman.

Director K Asif only directed two films in his life, the second being Mughal-e-Azam. A third, Love And God, was left unfinished when he died at age of 48.

Mughal-e-Azam was actually planned to be released inthe 1940s with the original cast being Sapru, Chandramohan and Nargis. The film was shelved for five years when Chandramohan died, halfway through shooting, and then recast with Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain was considered for the role of the young Prince Salim. The role eventually went to Jalal Agha.

The director left no stone unturned to shoot that perfect shot. He convinced the producer Shapoorji Palonji to fund the movie inspite of several delays. The film took 17 years to complete.

Mughal-e-Azam was the most expensive film made in Bollywood at the time and remained so for decades. From costumes stitched in Delhi and embroidered in Surat to jewellery that was made in Hyderabad, the props were meticulously planned and sourced.  2000 camels, 4000 horses and 8000 extras – some of them actual soldiers of the Indian Army – were used in the battle scenes.

Before every shot, Prithviraj Kapoor (who played Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar) would look into a full-length mirror. When director K Asif asked the reason for the odd behaviour, Kapoor said he did it to ‘get under the skin of the character’

The song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya cost Rs 10 million to make. It reportedly required 105 re-writes before music director Naushad gave it his approval. The only way Naushad could get the reverberation he wanted was to have Lata Mangeshkar sing the song in a studio bathroom. The song “Ae Mohabbat Zindabad” had Mohammad Rafi sing with a backup chorus of 100 singers.

K Asif was very determined on having Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali to provide the singing voice of Tansen in the film. The legend Bade Ghulam Ali initially declined and was asked to name his price by the director. He asked for Rs 25,000 – an astronomical figure of money at that time, just to dissuade K.Asif.  K Asif agreed to the price quoted and so in the film, Ghulam Ali  sang two songs – Prem Jogan Ban Ke and Shubh Din Aayo Raj Dulara.

When bookings for the film opened, there was chaos and near-riots at Mumbai’s famous cinema Maratha Mandir. Fans reportedly waited in queue for days, with family members ferrying them food from home. The police had to intervene when the crowd, reportedly a 100,000 strong, became too unruly. The tickets were dockets containing photographs and trivia about the film and are now considered collector’s items.

Despite the brilliance of the movie, it fell apart in the Filmfare awards, losing to mediocre films and music. The loss in Filmfare o did not hamper the greatness of the movie, and it is still remembered as one of the biggest cult movies of yesteryear bollywood, while the other ‘winning’ movies have faded into time.