Did you know that Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, who were in love with each other, broke up during the making of Mughal-e-Azam and that when Dilip Kumar had to slap his leading lady in a scene, he actually slapped her very hard? Or that director K Asif, who made the film over ten years with what actor Raza Murad calls “divine passion,” used 2,000 camels, 4,000 horses and 8,000 troops in the battle scenes? Or that in the iconic dance, Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya, the shots of Madhubala doing those blinding chakkars are actually picturised on the choreographer, Kathak maestro, Gopi Kishan? I learnt all this from the Bollywood@100 series, being telecast currently on the History channel. (Where’s that epic scale in today’s films? Mughal-e-Azam was made in the Fifties.)
I am a devoted Bollywood fan, but even for viewers who aren’t, this is a great series. There are episodes on landmark films: Mughal-e-Azam, Mother India, Pyaasa, Aradhana, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Film clips and stills, extensive interviews and good research are sewn together to make a complete package. The fascinating nuggets of information and trivia that the episodes throw up are reason enough to watch the series. Such as the singers-switch in Aradhana. Mohammed Rafi, music composer SD Burman’s favourite, was supposed to sing all the songs. Then SD fell ill, his son RD Burman took over and brought in Kishore Kumar. And Kishore Kumar never looked back.
Or the fact that Pyaasa originally had Nargis in the lead role opposite Dilip Kumar, but Raj Kapoor wasn’t too happy with this, so she backed out. (So did Dilip Kumar.) And so on and so forth. The other big attraction is the archival footage. In the episode on Mother India, there is amazing footage of the film’s premiere at Bombay’s Liberty cinema. Yes there were squealing female fans even then (and they became especially excited when Dilip Kumar walked in), but they were all young women in saris and modest blouses, looking like they’d just stepped out of a film themselves.
Apart from the film-focused episodes, there is also an elaborate behind-the-scenes edition which goes from Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand to Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay – and many other films.
Bollywood@100 is hosted by Karan Johar who does a great job with his light, humorous, contemporary commentary. He’s there hosting the episode on his own film too: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which was especially interesting to watch because (naturally) the entire star cast of the film was there to talk about it – Shah Rukh Khan (who said he played his very romantic role as “selfish and demanding”), Kajol, Rani Mukherji, and of course the director.
It’s a nostalgic, informative, entertaining series. Don’t miss it.