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Bollywood's never-ending fascination with Mughal era

entertainment Updated: Feb 05, 2008 14:06 IST
Highlight Story

Epical romances set in the courts of the Mughal rulers have enamoured filmmakers and audiences alike and the fascination continues even today with director Ashutosh Gowarikar mounting magnum opus Jodhaa Akbar set for release Feb 15, which marks Valentine's Day weekend.

Bringing together the hit pair of Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, the epic will recreate the romance of Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar and Rajput princess Hira Kunwari (Jodhabai) that blossomed from a political alliance more than 450 years ago.

Jodhaa Akbar shows how the couple broke cultural and religious barriers and shared a perfect arranged marriage, say the makers of the film.

"The way they handled their relationship is relevant for couples today," said Gowariker, who shot to fame with 2001 period film Lagaan that was short-listed for an Academy Award for the best foreign film.

As is common with most historical movies, certain sections of society are alleging that Jodhaa Akbar has distorted historic facts but the film is likely to be released on schedule.

The film is replete with all things associated with the Mughal era including massive battlefield settings with elephants and horsemen, regalia and exotic costumes.

The Mughal era, a period of Muslim rule on the subcontinent that stretched from 1526 to 1707, has had the most influence on the Indian moviemaking industry since it began in the 1930s till today.

That era gives the perfect setting for Hindi mainstream cinema to infuse each frame with lavish sets, ornate costumes, picture-perfect locales, drop-dead gorgeous actors and elaborate song and dance routines.

Films like Mughal-E-Azam, Anarkali and Pakeezah have set standards that are still benchmarks. Mughal-E-Azam, which was re-released after it was converted from partial black-and-white into a completely coloured film, went on to become a hit again.

It was the first film to be coloured for a big screen release. The original blockbuster that released in 1960 was in 85 percent black and white and 15 percent colour format. The refurbished version was completely coloured with Dolby-DTS Surround Sound.

Razia Sultan and Taj Mahal are recent films that tried to recreate the same magic. Some other films that are under production will also give a peek into Mughal era like Laxmibai, Bajirao Mastani and Gautam Buddha.

Even veteran filmmaker J.P. Dutta has been planning to make a movie on the last Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar titled Aakhri Mughal. But after he burnt his fingers by remaking Umrao Jaan, Dutta seems to have kept the project on hold.

Dutta wants Amitabh Bachchan to play the aging king Bahadur Shah Zafar in the film and Abhishek to play son Mirza Mughal.

Not just theme, Muslim actors too have dominated the formative years of Bollywood even though, like Jews in Hollywood, many changed their names for wider acceptability.

Yusuf Khan became Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari was once Mahajabeen and it was an Afghan woman, Mumtaz Begum, who entranced audiences as Madhubala. Popular comic actor, Badrudin Kazi, adopted the Christian name of a much-favoured imperial tipple: Johnny Walker.