From Mallika Sherawat to `mallika-e-husn`

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 19, 2004 06:01 hrs

Ignore the doomsday prophets. No matter what the naysayers say, the new colour version of K Asif’s all-time timeless classic Mughal-e-Azam has caught the nation’s fancy.

“From Mallika Sherawat, everyone seems to have suddenly switched loyalties to `mallika-e-husn` (the goddess of beauty) Madhubala. Mughal-e-Azam has got youngsters, who so far seemed sold on flesh completely, entranced by the draped demure and elegant figure of the Venus Of Indian cinema,” says a Bihar distributor who earlier made neat profits by exhibiting the piddly porn film Tauba Tauba.

From Tauba Tauba to Mughal-e-Azam is a long leap. But audiences seem ready for it. Period films and costume drama are on the anvil, some of them being made at a scale to rival if not match K. Asif’s nine-years-in-the-making opus Mughal-e-Azam.

Contrary to belief Mughal-e-Azam wasn’t the only costume drama that Karimuddin Asif made. Before the emblematic classic Asif made his directorial debut with Phool in 1944 which was, for its time, a lavish epic.

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. And Madhubala who was immortalized as Anarkali was dying of a heart disease even as doctors forbade her to carry those heavy iron chains that her characters wears in captivity.

Prior to Asif’s opus, Nandlal Jaswantlal’s Anarkali in 1953 depicted the same love legend of Salim and Anarkali and became a huge success. Just like Mughal-e-Azam seven years later the music and the songs by Lata Mangeshkar played a large hand in the film’s success.

If in Mughal-e-Azam audiences showered coins at the iconic Madhubala dancing to `Pyar kiya to darna kya`, in Anarkali they had done the same for Bina Rai singing `Zamana yeh samjha ke hum pee ke aaye`.

Soon after Mughal-e-Azam Asif launched another love legend Love & God based on the love of Laila and Majnu. Halfway through, the male protagonist Guru Dutt passed way. He was replaced by Sanjeev Kumar. 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 Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz.

Other popular costume dramas in the 1960s included Raj Kumar featuring Shammi Kapoor in the title role and Suraj with Rajendra Kumar.

The genre faded away in the 1970s. But its sudden revival this week through the warm reception accorded to Mughal-e-Azam could signal a new beginning for costume dramas.

Akbar Khan has been sitting idle with his lovel legend Taj Mahal for many months now. Mughal-e-Azam could open the floodgates for a new wave of costume dramas. Raj Kumar Santoshi wants to make the love legend of the Rajput king Prithviraj and Sanjukta with Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai in the lead, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s dream project is Bajirao Mastani chronicling the tumultuous love relationship between the Maratha king and his unlikely adversary.

Next year we’ll have two very important costume dramas. 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 locking hips with Rani Mukherjee who plays a prostitute.

It looks the costume designers can let their imagination run free.

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