, K. Asif’s masterpiece that narrated the love story of Prince Salim and courtesan Anarkali, was released on August 5, 1960. It’s said that for the premiere of the film, held at Maratha Mandir talkies, the reels were carried on elephant backs to the theatre.
The film, that took approximately 15 years in the making, became the epithet of the decade. Rewinding to the good ole’ days:
It’s said that noted director Vijay Bhatt had objected to the song,
Mohe panghat pe Nandlaal chhed gayo re…
picturised on Madhubala. He thought it would ruin the film since it showed emperor Akbar celebrating Krishna Janmashtami.
Music director Naushad had argued that with Jodhabai (Durga Khote) present in the Mughal court, it wasn’t all that illogical.
After discussions with the scriptwriters, a line was incorporated in Anarkali’s introduction scene. A courtier said, “
Aaj Krishna janmashtami hai aur Radha ke liye Anarkali theek rahegi
.” The song became piece-de- resistance.
For Salim and Anarkali, it was love-at-first-sight. It’s a moonlit night. The prince is caressing her cheek with a feather. K Asif decided to have no dialogue for this sequence.
Instead, he wanted a song playing in the background,
Prem jogan ban jaoon...
Sohni. It was a classical number, which only an
Naushad suggested Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who rendered it for Rs 25000, Rs 10000 of which was paid before the recording.
On the day of the recording, Mehboob Studio had been turned into a
, replete with a mattresses, pillows and lovely bedsheets covering the mattresses. Ustaad
recorded the song after he saw the scene and getting mesmerised by Anarkali Madhubala and Salim Dilip Kumar.
Almost 20 songs were recorded for
at the price of Rs 3000 a song. And yet, almost 10 of them were left out, including
Husn ki baraat chali…
sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and Mubarak Begum because the scene where Salim comes to the boathouse to give away awards to the court singers was deleted from the film.
Pyar kiya to darna kya...
On the day of recording, he had rejected two sets of lyrics. It was almost midnight when he remembered a folk song from East UP,
Prem kiya kya chori kari hai...
It didn’t take lyricist Shakeel Badayuni too long to convert that into a ghazal. By the time, the recording wrapped up, it was 6 am.
An elaborate Sheesh Mahal set was constructed for the song (at the cost of several lakhs of rupees back in the 1950s) but it was not clear how to set up the lighting to film the sequence.
It seems the producers consulted some leading Western directors, including Sir David Lean, who told them that it was absolutely impossible to film the sequence as the director had in mind.
Predictably the producers/ financiers were mad. K Asif, the story goes, closeted himself with the photographic people on his unit and came up with a way they thought might work. They shot the scene (both in color and in black and white). They could see the results on the B&W version right away; they were okay but not impressive.
The colour film was dispatched to London and arrived a month later. A private screening was held with the producer, director, director of photography, the main financiers and the distributors of the movie. Every one waited with nervousness and trepidation but once the scene unfurled, there was joy all around.
The distributor is reported to have said something to the effect that “Hang the movie; just give me this song and I will collect a crore of rupees just with it”.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
-Compiled by Rachana Dubey