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|Directed by||K. Asif (Karimuddin Asif)|
|Produced by||Shapoorji Pallonji|
|Music by||Naushad Ali|
|Cinematography||R. D. Mathur|
|Studio||Sterling Investment Corporation|
|Release date(s)||5 August 1960|
|Running time||197 minutes|
|Box office||55 million|
|Directed by||K. Asif (Karimuddin Asif)|
|Produced by||Shapoorji Pallonji|
|Music by||Naushad Ali|
|Cinematography||R. D. Mathur|
|Studio||Sterling Investment Corporation|
|Release date(s)||5 August 1960|
|Running time||197 minutes|
|Box office||55 million|
Mughal-e-Azam (The Emperor of the Mughals) is a 1960 Indian period epic film directed by K. Asif and produced by Shapoorji Pallonji. Starring Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Durga Khote in the lead roles, the film follows the love affair between Mughal Prince Salim (who went on to become Emperor Jahangir) and a court dancer Anarkali. The relationship is disapproved of by his father, Emperor Akbar, and envied by a senior dancer who wishes to become queen. Salim and Anarkali refuse to part with each other, leading to a war between father and son which the latter loses. Salim's life is spared in exchange for Anarkali's, who is eventually exiled.
The development of Mughal-e-Azam began in 1944, when Asif read a play which was set during the reign of Emperor Akbar (1556–1605). Production of the film was plagued with delays and financial uncertainty, almost to the point of bankruptcy. Prior to its principal photography, which began in the early 1950s, the film lost a financier and underwent a complete change in the cast. Upon completion, Mughal-e-Azam became the most expensive Indian film, to the extent that the filming of a single sequence cost more than the entire budget of a typical film of that period. The soundtrack, inspired from Indian classical and folk music, contains 12 songs, voiced by playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar and classical music artist Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. It is often cited as one of the finest soundtracks in Bollywood film history.
Mughal-e-Azam had the widest cinematic release for an Indian film at that time, and patrons often queued throughout the day to get tickets. Upon its release on 5 August 1960, the film broke box office records in India, becoming the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, a distinction it held for 15 years. The film won accolades including one National Film Award and three Filmfare Awards. Mughal-e-Azam was the first black-and-white Hindi film to be digitally coloured, and the first such film in the world to be given a theatrical re-release. The colour version, released in November 2004, was a commercial success.
Mughal-e-Azam is widely considered to be a milestone in Indian cinema, and critics have praised the film, commenting on its cinematic grandeur and attention to detail. Film scholars have commented on its effective portrayal of themes that have endured in Indian cinema, while also questioning its historical accuracy.
|Images of Mughal-e-Azam and plot details|
Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor), who does not have a male heir, undertakes a pilgrimage to a shrine to pray that his wife Jodhabai (Durga Khote) will give birth to a son. Later, a maid brings the emperor the news of his son's birth. Overjoyed at his prayers being answered, Akbar gives the maid his ring and promises to grant her any wish she desires.
The son, Prince Salim, grows up to be spoiled, flippant, and self-indulgent. His father sends him off to war to teach him courage and discipline. After 14 years, Salim returns as a distinguished soldier (Dilip Kumar). He falls in love with court-dancer Nandira, whom the emperor has renamed Anarkali (Madhubala), meaning pomegranate blossom. The relationship is discovered by the jealous Bahar (Nigar Sultana), a dancer of a higher rank, who attempts to force the prince to love her so that she may ascend to queenship. Unsuccessful in winning Salim's heart, she exposes the forbidden love between him and Anarkali. Salim pleads for Anarkali's hand, but his father objects and throws Anarkali into prison. Despite this, Anarkali refuses to reject Salim.
Salim rebels and amasses his own army to confront Akbar. Salim is defeated in battle and is sentenced to death by his father, but is told that the sentence will be revoked if Anarkali, now in hiding, is handed over to die in his place. Akbar's subjects plead to spare his son, and Anarkali comes out of hiding to save the prince's life. She is condemned to death by being entombed alive. Before her sentence is carried out, she pleads to have a few hours with Salim as his make-believe wife. She is granted the wish, as she agrees to drug him afterwards so that he cannot interfere with her entombment. As she is being walled up, Akbar is reminded that he still owes a favour to Anarkali's mother, since she was the maid who carried the message of Salim's birth to him. Anarkali's mother begs for her daughter's life. The emperor relents, and arranges for Anarkali's secret escape with her mother into exile. He stipulates, though, that they are to live in total obscurity, and that Salim is never to know that Anarkali still lives.
The Urdu dramatist Imtiaz Ali Taj wrote a play about the love story of Salim and Anarkali in 1922. The story is based more on a 16th-century legend than facts. A theatrical version was soon produced, and screen versions followed. Ardeshir Irani made a silent film named Anarkali in 1928 and remade it as a talkie in 1935. In the early 1940s, the tale of Anarkali inspired producer Shiraz Ali Hakeem and young director K. Asif (Karimuddin Asif) to make another cinematic adaptation which they would title Mughal-e-Azam. They recruited four Urdu writers to develop the screenplay and dialogue: Aman (Zeenat Aman's father, also known as Amanullah Khan), Wajahat Mirza, Kamaal Amrohi and Ehsan Rizvi. It is not known how the writers collaborated or split up their duties, but in 2010 The Times of India said that their "mastery over Urdu's poetic idiom and expression is present in every line, giving the film, with its rich plots and intricate characters, the overtones of a Shakespearean drama." As the script neared completion, Asif cast Chandra Mohan, D.K. Sapru and Nargis for the roles of Akbar, Salim and Anarkali respectively. Shooting started in 1946 in Bombay Talkies studio.
The project faced multiple hurdles which forced it to be abandoned. The political tensions and communal rioting surrounding India's 1947 partition and independence stalled the film's production. Shortly after partition, Shiraz Ali migrated to Pakistan, leaving Asif without a financier. The actor Chandra Mohan suffered a heart attack and died in 1949. Shiraz Ali had previously suggested that business tycoon Shapoorji Pallonji could finance the film. Although Pallonji did not know anything about film production, in 1950 he agreed to produce the film because of his interest in the history of Akbar. Production was then restarted with a new cast.
Believing that the film had been cancelled, Kamal Amrohi, one of the scriptwriters who was also a director, had planned to make a film on the same subject, but after Asif confronted him about it, Amrohi agreed to shelve his project. Another unrelated film production, based on the same stage play, was Nandlal Jaswantlal's Anarkali, starring Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar, which became the highest grossing Bollywood film of 1953.
Asif had initially rejected Dilip Kumar for the role of Prince Salim. Kumar himself was reluctant to act in a period film, but he accepted the role upon the insistence of the film's producer. According to Kumar, "Asif trusted me enough to leave the delineation of Salim completely to me". Kumar visited London to test the wig he would wear in the film. He faced difficulty while filming in Rajasthan due to the heat and the body armour he wore. The role of Anarkali had first been offered to Suraiya, but Madhubala, who was longing for a significant role, could not let the opportunity pass. Madhubala experienced difficulty while filming, primarily because she suffered from congenital heart disease. She fainted on the sets, and suffered skin abrasions while filming the prison sequences, but remained dedicated to her work without much concern for her health.
To become the character of Emperor Akbar, Prithviraj Kapoor was reported to have "relied completely on the script and director", and would look into a mirror as tall as himself before every shot. Prior to make-up, Kapoor would declare, "Prithviraj Kapoor ab jaa rahaa hai" ("Prithviraj Kapoor is now going"); after make-up, he would announce, "Akbar ab aa rahaa hai" ("Akbar is now coming"). Kapoor faced difficulty with his heavy armour, and suffered blisters on his feet after walking bare-footed in the desert for a particular sequence. Lance Dane, a photographer and collector of erotica who was on set during the filming, recalled that Kapoor faced difficulty remembering his lines on some scenes; he mentioned one scene in particular in which Kapoor took 19 takes to get it right. At the time of filming, Kapoor was also on a diet and actively engaged in exercising, and was told by Asif to regain the lost weight for the part of Akbar. Zakir Hussain, who later became a tabla maestro, had initially been considered for the role of Young Prince Salim, but it became the debut role of Jalal Agha, who later gained fame for his part in the song "Mehbooba Mehbooba" from Sholay (1975).
The production design of the film, led by the art director M.K. Syed, was extravagant, with some of the lavish sets taking six weeks to erect. The film, mostly shot in studio sets designed to represent the interior of a grand Mughal palace, featured opulent furnishings and water features such as fountains and pools, generating the feel of a Hollywood historical epic of that period. The song "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" was filmed in Mohan Studios in a set built as a replica of the Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort. The set was noted for its size, measuring 150 feet (46 m) in length, 80 feet (24 m) in breadth and 35 feet (11 m) in height. A much-discussed aspect of the set was the presence of numerous small mirrors made of Belgian glass, which were crafted and designed by workers from Firozabad. This set took two years to build, and cost more than 1.5 million (valued at about US$314,465 in 1960),[a] a price higher than the budget of an entire Bollywood film at that time. The high cost worried the financiers of the film who feared bankruptcy.
Skilled artisans from across India were recruited for crafting the props. The costumes were designed by Makhanlal and Company, and Delhi-based tailors who were skilled at zardozi embroidery stitched the Mughal costume. The footwear was ordered from Agra, the jewellery was made by goldsmiths in Hyderabad, the crowns were designed in Kolhapur, and blacksmiths from Rajasthan manufactured the armoury (which included shields, swords, spears, dagger and armour); the zardozi on costumes were also stitched by designers from Surat. A statue of Lord Krishna, to which Jodhabai prayed, was made of gold. In the scenes involving an imprisoned Anarkali, real chains were actually placed on Madhubala. The battle sequence between Akbar and Salim reportedly featured 2,000 camels, 400 horses and 8,000 troops, mainly from the Indian Army's Jaipur cavalry, 56th Regiment. Dilip Kumar has spoken of the intense heat during filming of the sequence in the desert of Rajasthan, wearing full armour.
The principal photography of Mughal-e-Azam began in the early 1950s. Filming was reportedly done three times for each sequence, as the film was being produced in Hindi/Urdu, Tamil and English. The film was eventually dubbed in Tamil and released as Akbar, but that version's commercial failure resulted in the abandoning of the planned English dubbing, for which British actors were considered. Asif was accompanied by an extensive crew, which included his assistant directors S.T. Zaidi, Khalid Akhtar, Surinder Kapoor (assisting primarily for the English version), and five others. Additional crew members included cinematographer R.D. Mathur, choreographer Lachhu Maharaj, production manager Aslam Noori, editor Dharamavir, makeup artists P.G. Joshi and Abdul Hamid, and sound director Akram Shaikh.
Some sequences of the film were shot with up to 14 cameras, significantly more than the norm at that time. The film's lighting encountered a number of challenges, with cinematographer Mathur reported to have taken eight hours to light a single shot. In total, 500 days of shooting were needed, compared to a normal schedule of 60 to 125 shooting days at the time. Due to the very large size of the Sheesh Mahal set, the lighting was obtained by using the headlights of 500 trucks and also about 100 reflectors. The presence of the mirrors on the set caused problems since they would sparkle under the lights. Consultants from Hollywood, including David Lean, told Asif to forget the idea since they felt that it was impossible to film the scene under the intense glare. Asif confined himself to the set with the lighting crew, and subsequently overcame the problem by covering all the mirrors with a thin covering of wax, thereby getting rid of their reflective nature. In addition, Mathur used strategically placed strips of cloth to implement "bounce lighting", which reduced the glare.
Filming suffered a number of problems and production delays, to the extent that Asif had considered abandoning the project at one point. Kumar defended the long duration of the filming process due to the massive logistics of the film, and stated that the entire cast and crew were "acutely conscious of the hard work [they] would have to put in, as well as the responsibility [they] would have to shoulder."
The production suffered from financial problems, with Asif reported to have gone over-budget a number of times. The final budget of the film is a subject of debate, with some sources stating that Mughal-e-Azam cost 10.5 million to produce, about US$2 million at the time, while others claim it to be 15 million, or about $3 million. This made Mughal-e-Azam the most expensive Indian film at that time; a number of estimates put the film's inflation-adjusted budget at 500 million to 2 billion. The budget situation strained the relationship between Asif and Pallonji, and the production also faced troubled relationships among other crew members; differences crept up between Asif and Kumar when the former married the latter's sister. Another source of trouble was the romantic relationship and ultimate break-up of Kumar and Madhubala, who had been dating for nine years.
Sohrab Modi's Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) was the first Indian film to be shot in colour, and by 1957, the production of colour films had become increasingly common. Asif filmed one reel of Mughal-e-Azam in Technicolor which included the song "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya". Impressed by the results, he also filmed three reels near the film's climax in Technicolor. After seeing those, he wanted to remake the entire film in Technicolor, angering impatient distributors who were not willing to accept further delays. Asif subsequently released the film partially coloured, though he wished to see the full film in a colour version.
By the end of filming, over a million feet of negative had been used, necessitating significant editing. A number of songs were edited out of the film due to the running time, which in the end was 197 minutes. In all, nearly half of the songs recorded for the film were ultimately left out.
The general theme of Mughal-e-Azam is a family history which highlights the differences between father and son, duty to the public over family, and the trials and tribulations of women, particularly of courtesans. According to Rachel Dwyer, in her book Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema, the film highlights religious tolerance between Hindus and Muslims. Examples include the scenes of Hindu Queen Jodahabai's presence in the court of the Muslim Akbar, the singing of a Hindu devotional song by Anarkali, and Akbar's participation in the Janmashtami celebrations, during which Akbar is shown pulling a string to rock a swing with an idol of Krishna on it. Film critic Mukul Kesavan has remarked that he was unable to recall a single other film about Hindu-Muslim love in which the woman is Hindu. Scholars Bhaskar and Allen described the film as a tableau vivant of "Islamicate culture", evidenced in its ornate sets, musical sequences such as the qawwali scene, and chaste Urdu dialogues. Throughout the film there is a distinct depiction of Muslims as the ruling class who not only dressed differently but also spoke in complex Persianised dialogue. They are made to appear "distinct and separate from the mainstream."
The film scholar Stephen Teo posits that Mughal-e-Azam is a "national allegory", a stylistic way of appropriating history and heritage to emphasise the national identity. He believes that the arrogance of Bahar represents the power of the state and that Anarkali's emotion, which is highly personal, represents the private individual. Teo states that the theme of romantic love defeating social class difference and power hierarchy, as well as the grandeur of the filming, contribute to the attractiveness of the film. Ashis Nandy has commented on the poetic quality of the dialogue in the film, saying that "the characters of Mughal-e-Azam do not just speak—they refine communication, they distil it, they crystallize it into many faceted glittering gems, they make poetry of ordinary language." Gowri Ramnarayan of The Hindu has also described the power of the dialogues in the film in that they "create not only the ambiance of this period drama, but also etch character and situation. Every syllable breathes power and emotion."
The scholar Philip Lutgendorf has stated that while the theme of the conflict between passionate individual love and family duty may be very common to Hindi film making, with endless cinematic permutations, K. Asif's "excessive elaboration of the theme remains in a class by itself." Further, Emperor Akbar himself struggles between his personal desires and his duties to the nation in the wider picture. The author Ashis Nandy noted that, apart from the conflict between Akbar and his son, there is also an "unwritten alliance" between Akbar and Bahar that compounds the problems of Anarkali. He also said that it highlighted the "idea of justice and the notion of unconditional love" to uphold tradition. The song "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" sung by Anarkali is an indication of her defiance of societal norms. A major difference from the original story is that while the earlier Anarakali films based on Imtiaz Ali Taj's story ended as tragedies, K. Asif created a relatively happy ending in that Akbar gives amnesty to Anarkali by allowing her to escape through a secret route of tunnels below a false bottom of her prison wall, although his son is made to suffer in believing her to have perished.
Though the film is based on a legend, it is given credence by being linked to the historical period of the greatest monarch of the Mughal Empire, Emperor Akbar (1556–1605). It is further supported by the fact that a marble tomb was built on Anarkali's grave in Lahore in 1615, when Salim had become Emperor Jehangir. On the tomb is an inscription of a couplet. A single piece of marble carries the inscription which reads: "Ta Kiyamat shukr geom kardgate khwesh ra, Aah garman bez benaam roo-e yare khwesh ra", meaning in English: "Ah! could I behold the face of my love once more, I would give thanks to my God until the day of resurrection." Yet, the author of the play, Imtiaz Ali Taj, believed that this story had no historical base. Although the earlier film version of Anarkali displayed a disclaimer at the end stating that the story had no foundation in history, Mughal-e-Azam made no such claim. Although Anarkali is often regarded as a legendary figure, there are snippets of historical evidence for her existence. Some have suggested that she may have been a painter, a dancer, or a courtesan, or one of Akbar's wives and the mother of Salim's half-brother Prince Daniyal. There are also historians who doubt that Akbar had a wife named Jodabai.
Mughal-e-Azam takes numerous liberties with historical fact. The historian Alex von Tunzelmann says that although the real Salim was a heavy consumer of alcohol and opium, his bad habits started when he was 18; he was not necessarily a mischievous boy, as was depicted in the film. When the film's Salim returns from his time in the military, he is shown to be a gentle romantic hero, as opposed to the real Salim, who was a documented to be a brutal person that would beat people to death, and was still often getting drunk. The real Salim did lead a rebellion against his father, tried to replace him as emperor, and had Akbar's friend Abu al-Fazl murdered in 1602, but the film ascribes these actions to his desire to marry Anarkali, which is not historically accurate. Further, there were also discrepancies in sets, costumes, and music of the film. The Sheesh Mahal, actually the royal bath of the queen, was depicted in the film as a dancing hall, and much larger. Music and dancing styles from the 19th century were shown, though the story takes place in the 16th century. For example the thumri, a semi-classical music form developed in the 19th century, is adopted in a dance sequence in Kathak style, which is a 16th-century dance form.
|Soundtrack album by Naushad Ali|
|Naushad Ali chronology|
The soundtrack was composed by music director Naushad Ali, and the lyrics were written by Shakeel Badayuni. After conceiving the idea of the film, K. Asif visited Ali and handed him a briefcase containing money, telling him to make "memorable music" for Mughal-e-Azam. Offended by the explicit notion of money as a means of gaining quality, Naushad threw the notes out of the window, to the surprise of his wife. She subsequently made peace between the two men, and Asif apologised. With this, Naushad accepted the offer to direct the film's soundtrack.
As with most of Naushad's soundtracks, the songs of Mughal-e-Azam were heavily inspired from Indian classical music and folk music, particularly the ragas such as the Raga Durbari, the Raga Durga, used in the composition of "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya", and the Raga Kedar, used in "Bekas Pe Karam Keejeye". He also made extensive use of symphony orchestras and choruses to add grandeur to the music. The soundtrack contained a total of 12 songs, which were rendered by both playback singers and classical music artists. These songs account for nearly one third of the film's running time. The album's cover image depicts a famous scene from the film in which Salim strokes Anarkali with an ostrich feather during one of their liaisons.
A total of 20 songs were composed for the film, at an average cost of 3,000 (valued at about US$629 in 1960)[a] per song, though many were left out of the final cut due to the film's length. Both Asif and Naushad approached Hindustani classical vocalist Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, inviting him to participate in the film's soundtrack, but he refused explaining that he disliked working in films. Asif, adamant about the presence of Khan, asked him to name his fee. Khan quoted a fee of 25,000 per song (at a time when Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi charged 300–400 per song), thinking that Asif would send him away. Instead, Asif agreed, and even gave Khan a 50% advance. Surprised and left with no excuse to turn down the offer, he finally accepted. Khan sang two songs, "Prem Jogan Ban Ke Sunderi" and "Shubh Din Aayo", both of them qawwalis. They were included in the final version of the film, proving the virtuosity of Khan's singing.
The composition of "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" was especially time-consuming – on the day of the song's scheduled recording, Naushad rejected two sets of lyrics made by Badayuni. Subsequently, a "brainstorming session" was held on Naushad's terrace, beginning in early evening and lasting until next day. Late in the night, Naushad remembered a folk song from eastern Uttar Pradesh with the lyrics "Prem kiya, kya chori kari hai..." ("I have loved, does it mean that I have stolen?"). The song was converted into a ghazal and subsequently recorded. At that time, since there was no technology to provide for the reverberation of sound heard in the song, Naushad had Mangeshkar sing the song in a studio bathroom. Some sources state that the song "Ae Mohabbat Zindabad" had singer Mohammed Rafi supported with a chorus of a hundred singers, though other sources place the number at a thousand.
The song "Mohe Panghat Pe" was objected to by veteran director Vijay Bhatt. Although he was not directly involved with the project, he thought that it would "ruin the film", since it spoke of the Hindu celebration of Janmashtami (an oddity since the song was depicted in the Mughal court). Though Naushad argued that the presence of Jodhabai made the situation logical, he met the film's screenwriters and subsequently added a dialogue which explained the sequence.
At the time the film was being colourised for re-release, the soundtrack was also reworked, with original composer Naushad receiving help from Uttam Singh. The score remained the same, but the sound was touched up and converted to Dolby Digital. The orchestral part was re-recorded with live musicians, but the original solo vocals were retained. The cost was reported to be between 2.6 million (US$40,000) and 6.5 million (US$99,000).
The soundtrack of Mughal-e-Azam received universal acclaim from critics in India, and is often cited as one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood history. The album became one of the top selling Bollywood soundtracks of the 1960s. Shahid Khan, writing for Planet Bollywood, gave the soundtrack ten out of ten stars, and called the music the "soul of the film". In 2004, Subhash K. Jha reviewed the re-mastered release of the soundtrack, praising the technical quality of the re-release, and the original vocals of Lata Mangeshkar, whom he called the "Indian nightingale". Baldev S Chauhan of Sun Post called the songs "some of the greatest songs of Hindi cinema."
|1.||"Mohe Panghat Pe"||Lata Mangeshkar and Chorus||04:02|
|2.||"Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya"||Lata Mangeshkar and Chorus||06:21|
|3.||"Mohabbat Ki Jhooti"||Lata Mangeshkar||02:40|
|4.||"Humen Kash Tumse Mohabbat"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:08|
|5.||"Bekas Pe Karam Keejeye"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:52|
|6.||"Teri Mehfil Mein"||Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and Chorus||05:05|
|7.||"Ye Dil Ki Lagi"||Lata Mangeshkar||03:50|
|8.||"Ae Ishq Yeh Sab Duniyawale"||Lata Mangeshkar||04:17|
|9.||"Khuda Nigehbaan"||Lata Mangeshkar||02:52|
|10.||"Ae Mohabbat Zindabad"||Mohammed Rafi and Chorus||05:03|
|11.||"Prem Jogan Ban Ke"||Bade Ghulam Ali Khan||05:03|
|12.||"Shubh Din Aayo Raj Dulara"||Bade Ghulam Ali Khan||02:49|
At the time of the release of Mughal-e-Azam, a typical Bollywood film would garner a distribution fee of 3–400,000 (about US$62,893–83,857 in 1960)[a] per territory. Asif insisted on selling his film to the distributors at the rate of 700,000 per territory, making it clear that he would sell the film only as per his wish. Subsequently, the film was actually sold at a price of 1.7 million (US$356,394)[a] per territory, surprising Asif and the producers. Thus, it set the record for the highest distribution fee received by any Bollywood film at that time.
The premiere of Mughal-e-Azam was held at the then-new, 1,100-capacity Maratha Mandir cinema in Mumbai. Mirroring the nature of the film, the cinema's foyer had been decorated to resemble a Mughal palace, and a 40-foot (12 m) cut-out of Prithviraj Kapoor was erected outside it. The Sheesh Mahal set was transported from the studio to the cinema, where ticket holders could go inside and experience its grandeur. Invitations to the premiere were sent as "royal invites" shaped like scrolls, which were written in Urdu and made to look like the Akbarnama, the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar. The premiere was held amidst great fanfare, with large crowds and an extensive media presence, in addition to hosting much of the film industry, though Dilip Kumar himself did not attend the event due to his dispute with Asif. The film's reels arrived at the premiere cinema atop a decorated elephant, accompanied by the music of bugles and shehnai.
The day before the film's bookings opened, a reported crowd of 100,000 had gathered outside the Maratha Mandir to buy tickets. The tickets, the most expensive for a Bollywood film at that time, were dockets containing text, photographs and trivia about the film, and are now considered collector's items. They sold for 100 (valued at about US$21 in 1960),[a] compared to the usual price of 1.5 (US$0.31)[a] for that time period. Bookings experienced major chaos, to the extent that police intervention was required. It was reported that people would wait in queues for four to five days, and would be supplied food from home through their family members. Subsequently, the Maratha Mandir closed bookings for three weeks.
Mughal-e-Azam was released on 5 August 1960 in 150 cinemas across the country, setting the record for the widest cinematic release for a Bollywood film at that time. Upon release, it became a major commercial success, earning 4 million (US$838,574)[a] in the first week, and eventually earning a net revenue of 55 million (US$11,530,398),[a] generating a profit of 30 million (US$6,289,3088)[a] for the producers. Mughal-e-Azam also experienced a long theatrical run, being screened to full capacity at the Maratha Mandir for three years. The film thus became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time by surpassing Mother India (1957), and retained this record until Sholay (1975) surpassed its net revenue.
The Hindu stated in 2009 that Mughal-e-Azam was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time if adjusted for inflation. According to the online box office website Box Office India, the film's adjusted net revenue would amount to 1327 million, ranking it as an "All-Time Blockbuster". The trade magazine Box Office implemented a formula for adjusting box office collections in 2011. Using the base price of gold and growth of multiplexes as factors, they calculated that Mughal-e-Azam was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time.
Mughal-e-Azam received nearly universal acclaim from Indian critics, with every aspect of the film receiving praise. A review from the 1960s in Filmfare Magazine called it a "history-making film ... the work of a team of creative artists drawn from different spheres of the art world". It was also described as "a tribute to imagination, hard work and lavishness of its maker, Mr. Asif. For its grandeur, its beauty, and then performances of the artists it should be a landmark in Indian films."
Reviewers from 2000s onward have described the film as a "classic", "benchmark", or "milestone" in the history of Indian cinema. In 2011, Anupama Chopra called the film "the best Hindi film ever made", writing "with its powerful performances, thunderous father-son drama and spectacular song-and-dance sequences, Mughal-e-Azam is the apotheosis of the Hindi film form." Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama said, "The grandiose look, the haunting musical score, the breathtaking battle scenes, the splendid performances, the heart-rending emotions, the legendary romance between Salim and Anarkali and of course, the confrontation scenes between Akbar and Salim? Mughal-e-Azam will always remain a benchmark." Dinesh Raheja of Rediff called the film "a must-see classic," saying "a work of art is the only phrase to describe this historical [ work ] whose grand palaces-and-fountains look has an epic sweep and whose heart-wrenching core of romance has the tenderness of a feather's touch." Sujata Gupta of Planet Bollywood gave the film nine out of ten stars, calling it a must see that has captured interest of people over generations.
K.K. Rai, in his review for Stardust stated, "it can be said that the grandeur and vintage character of Mughal-e-Azam cannot be repeated, and it will remembered as one of the most significant films made in this country." Ziya Us Salam of The Hindu described Mughal-e-Azam as "a film you see not because you have not seen it, but simply because you cannot have enough of it!" Raja Sen of Rediff compared the film to Spartacus (1960) and said, "Mughal-e-Azam is awesomely, stunningly overwhelming, a magnificent spectacle entirely free of CGI and nonlinear gimmickry, a gargantuan feat of ... of ... well, of Mughal proportions!" Laura Bushell of BBC rated the film four out of five stars, commenting it was a "benchmark film for both Indian cinema and cinema grandeur in general"; she also stated that "Mughal-E-Azam is epic in every sense of the word."
Nasreen Munni Kabir, author of The Immortal Dialogue of K. Asif's Mugahl-e-Azam, described the film as "the Kohinoor, the diamond that shines bright in popular cinema." In his essay in Ashis Nandy's book The Secret Politics of Our Desires: Innocence, Culpability and Indian Popular Cinema, Ziauddin Sardar said that Mughal-e-Azam is structured like a ghazal. Of the dialogues he said "the characters of Mughal-e-Azam do not just speak — they refine communication, they distil it, they crystallize it into many-faceted gems, they make poetry of ordinary language." Outlook in 2008, and Hindustan Times in 2011, both declared that the scene in which Salim brushes Anarkali with an ostrich feather was the "most erotic, sensuous scene in the history of Indian cinema."
Mughal-e-Azam received a number of nominations and awards. At the 1961 National Film Awards, the film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. In the 1961 Filmfare Awards, Mughal-e-Azam was nominated in seven categories:- Best Film, Best Director (Asif), Best Actress (Madhubala), Best Playback Singer (Mangeshkar), Best Music (Naushad), Best Cinematography (Mathur) and Best Dialogues (Aman, Wajahat Mirza, Kamaal Amrohi, and Ehsan Rizvi), winning the awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Dialogues.
Mughal-e-Azam was the first black and white Hindi film to be digitally coloured as well as the first such film in the world to be given a theatrical re-release. The Sterling Investment Corporation originally came up with the idea to restore Mughal-e-Azam, and assigned Deepesh Salgia as project manager. They initially approached Hollywood executives for help, but found the quotations, ranging from $12–15 million, to be too expensive. In 2002, Umar Siddiqui, managing director of the Indian Academy of Arts and Animation (IAAA) proposed to digitally enhance it at a fraction of the cost. To convince the Shapoorji Pallonji group, one of India's wealthiest companies, of the commercial viability of the project, the IAAA colourised a four-minute clip of the film and showed it to both Shapoorji Pallonji and the Sterling Investment Corporation. They approved of it and gave the project the go ahead. Shapoorji Mistry, grandson of producer Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry, thought it a fitting tribute to complete his grandfather's unfinished dream of colourising the entire film.
The first step towards colourisation was the restoration of the original negatives, which were in poor condition due to extensive printing of the negative during the original theatrical release. This process took extensive efforts, since restoration was essential for the colourisation. The process involved cleaning the negative of fungal growth, restoring the portions which were damaged, and re-instating missing parts in the frames. After the cleaning, each of the 300,000 frames of the negative was scanned into a 10 megabytes-sized file. The restoration required significant labour and money to complete. The original sound track was also in a bad state of preservation, which necessitated getting it cleaned first in the US, after which the sound track was fully recreated by Naushad and his team.
The process of colourisation was preceded by extensive research. The art departments visited museums and read books to understand the typical colours of clothing worn at that time. Siddiqui studied the technology used for the colourisation of black-and-white Hollywood classics. The team also approached a number of people for guidance and suggestions, including Dilip Kumar, production designer Nitin Chandrakant Desai and a historian from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. To undertake the colourisation, Siddiqui brought together a team of around 100 individuals, including computer engineers and software professionals, and organised a number of art departments. The entire project was co-ordinated by Deepesh Salgia, who partnered with a number of companies like Iris Interactive and Rajtaru Studios to execute the colourisation. The task was controlled and supervised by the producers, who received daily updates and reports about the progress.
The colourisation team spent 18 months to develop software for colouring the frames, called "Effects Plus", which was designed to accept only those colours whose hue would match the shade of grey present in the original film. This ensured that the colours added were as close to the real colour as possible; the authenticity of the colouring was later verified when a costume used in the film was retrieved from a warehouse, and its colours were found to closely match those in the film. Every shot was finally hand-corrected to perfect the look. The actual colourisation process took a further 10 months to complete. Siddiqui said that it had "been a painstaking process with men working round the clock to complete the project." The exact cost of the colourisation is debated, with a wide variety of estimates ranging from 20 million (US$310,000) to 50 million (US$770,000), to 100 million (US$1.5 million).
The film's colour version was released theatrically on 12 November 2004, in 150 prints across India, 65 of which were in Maharashtra. The new release premiered at Eros theatre in Mumbai. Dilip Kumar was in attendance (he had not attended the original premiere). For the release, the colour version was edited to a running time of 177 minutes, as compared to the original version's running time of 197 minutes. This release also included a digitisation and reworking of the soundtrack, in which the original composer Naushad participated. The theatrical release coincided with the Diwali weekend (a time when big film releases are common), with the film debuting against three other releases – Veer-Zaara, Aitraaz and Naach. It became the 19th highest grossing Bollywood film of the year, with 100 million nett gross, behind Aitraaz and Veer-Zaara (the top grosser), but ahead of Naach.
Mughal-e-Azam became the first full-length feature film in the history of world cinema to be colourised for a theatrical re-release, as although some Hollywood films had been colourised by then, they were only available for release in home media. It was then selected for seven international film festivals. Upon release, the film drew crowds to theatres, with an overall occupancy of 90%. Subsequently, the film completed a 25-week run at the theatres. While some critics complained that the colours were "psychedelic" or "unnatural", there were others who hailed the effort as a technological achievement. Film critic Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times remarked that while colourising is not a good idea for most black-and-white classics, it was perfect in this particular instance. He compared it to films by Cecil B. DeMille, and to Gone With the Wind (1939) for its larger-than-life storytelling. The Guardian said that although the new version was an improvement, "the fake colours tend to look flat and brash, detracting from cinematographer RD Mathur's elegantly composed shots." BBC's Jaspreet Pandohar observed that the film was "restored in appealing candy-colours and high quality sound" and considered it a "cross between Gone With the Wind and Ben-Hur". Other critics have said that they prefer the black and white version.
In 2006, Mughal-e-Azam became only the fourth Indian film certified for showing in Pakistan since the 1965 ban on Indian cinema, being released in the country with a premiere in Lahore. It was distributed in the country by Nadeem Mandviwala Entertainment, at the request of K. Asif's son, Akbar Asif. A 3D version of the film was reported to be in the works in 2009, but it was never released.
Mughal-e-Azam remained one of only two films K. Asif ever directed; one of his unfinished films was released posthumously as a tribute. Over time, the name of the film itself has become a part of Bollywood vernacular, with the words often being heard on the sets of modern films. For example, if a craftsman takes longer than necessary on a job, the impatient art director might say "Finish quickly, do you think we are making Mughal-e-Azam?". Art director Omung Kumar, who has designed sets for major Indian films such as Black (2005) and Saawariya (2007), said that he and others in his field even today look up to Mughal-e-Azam as a source of inspiration when it comes to art direction. The film has also been used as a model for the perfect love story in the years that followed. As a result, many directors have been pressured not to make a love story where there is no barrier coming between the lovers. The film has been called the "crowning glory" of Madhubala's career. After this film, she could have had the best of roles, but was advised not to overwork due to her heart condition, and was unable even to finish some films that were already underway.
The Guardian in 2013 cited the film as a "landmark of cinema" despite its historical inaccuracies, and the BBC stated in 2005 that Mughal-e-Azam is "widely considered one of Bollywood's most iconic films". Imtiaz Ali of the The Times of India in 2010 called the film the "most proto-typical, high involvement, expensive, passionate piece of work that Hindi cinema has ever produced", one which "set the standard for everything that will ever come after it". It continues to be regarded by critics as the Indian equivalent of Gone with the Wind. Filmmaker Subhash Ghai was quoted in 2010 as saying that a film like this could never be repeated. "Mughal-e-Azam is an all-time classic and has been the ultimate love story in Hindi cinema at all levels. So it will always remain alive for generations to come." To commemorate the film's anniversary, actor and producer Shahrukh Khan, who is a fan of the film and a friend of Akbar Asif, had his company Red Chillies Entertainment produce a documentary video on the film. It was called Mughal-E-Azam — A Tribute by a son to his father; it included interviews with K. Asif's family and Bollywood stars, and was hosted by Khan himself. In connection with this video, artist M.F. Husain created a series of paintings re-imagining some of the memorable scenes. Khan is also interested in preserving the film for future generations, and noted that his father was originally cast in the film, but did not complete it. When asked if Mughal-e-Azam should be remade, he disagreed, adding "It is the mother of all films; mothers cannot be remade". Though no sequels have ever been made, the film Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam (2008) paid tribute with its title and by including in its plot a portion of the original stage play. That film received very poor ratings from critics.
Mughal-e-Azam often ranks on lists of top Indian films, such as the 2002 British Film Institute poll of "Top 10 Indian Films", and Anupama Chopra's 2009 list, "The Best Bollywood Films". Rotten Tomatoes has sampled six reviewers and judged them all to be positive, with an average rating of 8.5 out of 10. It is second on Box Office India's list of "Biggest Blockbusters Ever in Hindi Cinema". The film was named the greatest Bollywood film of all time by a poll celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema by British Asian weekly newspaper Eastern Eye in July 2013. It belongs to only a small collection of films, including Kismet (1943), Mother India (1957), Sholay (1975) and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994), which are repeatedly watched throughout India and are viewed as definitive Hindi films with cultural significance. Several books and documentaries have been made about the film, including Shakil Warsi's book Mughal-E-Azam – An Epic of Eternal Love from 2009, and some companies have adopted the name Mughal-e-Azam, including a restaurant in Goregaon.