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The enduring appeal of Mughal-e-Azam

The article by Jivraj Burman, on the enduring appeal of Indian epic film and reminiscent of the older style of Indian cinema (Spectrum, Aug 17) was very interesting.

Mughal-e-Azam, was the most lavish production of its time and there are several interesting anecdotes about its making. In the movie, tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain was initially offered the role of young Dilip Kumar (Prince Salim), which was eventually played by Jalal Agha.

With Jhansi Ki Rani in 1951 colour films brought a revolution in the world of Indian cinema. And producer and director K. Asif wanted to re-make the whole film in colour, but when the distributors lost patience they settled for having two songs and the film’s 30-minute climax shot in Technicolour, with the rest of the film (85 per cent) in black and white.

However, after that, Asif’s dream to colour the movie was fulfilled by Umar Siddiqi of Land India Group. And after a year-long process of colourisation, the movie was again released in November, 2004 and that too was a great success.

The song Ae mohabbat zindabad… was sung by Mohammed Rafi with a chorus of 100 singers. Moreover, the song Pyar kiya to darna kya… was written and re-written 105 times by lyricist Shakeel Badayuni before music director Naushad approved it. This song was one of three sequences shot in technicolour while the rest of the movie was in black and white.

To create the echo effect music director Naushad made Lata Mangeshkar sing the song in a studio bathroom. The statue of Lord Krishna used in the film was made of pure gold. During the shooting of the film, actor Prithviraj Kapoor was looking into a mirror as tall as himself before each shot. And when K. Asif asked him why he was doing so, he replied, “I did so to get under the skin of the character.”

For the battle sequence, 2,000 camels, 4,000 horses and 8,000 troops were used with special permission through the Union Ministry of Defence. The soldiers were brought from the Jaipur regiment of the Indian Army.


Down to earth

In his write-up “All black” contributed to Khushwant Singh’s column “This above all” (Saturday Extra, Aug 9), Jaidev Bajaj has mentioned that Chaudhry Shahabuddin was “short, ugly and dark”.

But this is not correct. In spite of his dark complexion, Shahabuddin was an imposing man. Because of his stature Allama Iqbal had asked Shahabuddin to name his vast, magnificent house ‘Dev Mahal’ (Devil’s Mansion).

At an Iftar party, when he asked for water, Iqbal told a man to bring it in a big bucket instead of in a tumbler. It was Iqbal, not Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, as mentioned by Bajaj, who, on seeing Shahabuddin dressed in black in the bar room (not Assembly), commented, Chaudhry Sahib aaj aap bilkul nangey aa gaey (Chaudhry Sahib, today, you have come stark naked). On another occasion, when he was wearing white colour clothes, Iqbal had quipped, Oh, vekho kapaah wich katta (See, a buffalo in a cotton field). When the scavengers of Lahore Corporation went on a strike, he called them for a dialogue and addressed them as bhaino te bharaao. While he was addressing them, a young child started making noise, on which his mother, a sweepress, shouted, Chup kar, mamu bahut maarega (Keep quiet, otherwise your maternal uncle will thrash you).

There was a pleasant friendship between Iqbal and Shahabuddin. Iqbal always burst out laughing and made facetious remarks on seeing him, but he took it all in good humour.. He came from an ordinary family and achieved a lot purely on the basis of his intelligence, astuteness and confidence. He was an outstanding advocate, most respected Speaker of the Punjab Assembly and a recipient of the title of ‘Sir’ — one of the highest British honours. In fact, he was a distinguished personality in the galaxy of eminent people of his time, yet he was a modest, self-effacing person.



The arguments advanced by certain historians to justify the weak efforts (if at all they were made) of Mahatma Gandhi (“Mahatma and the Martyr”, Spectrum, July 27), to save Bhagat Singh from the gallows are not convincing at all.

It has been stated by certain historians that “the issue of saving the lives of Bhagat Singh and his comrades lay beyond Gandhi (and Irwin) because they were not free and independent enough to do whatever they wished as is commonly assumed”. Well, if a person is extremely strong about his convictions as Gandhi was, I don’t think there is any power that could deter him from doing what he wanted. He was a person who led others and not the one who was led by others.

Well, over the years, we have often seen individuals and organisations seeking commutation of death sentence of even hardcore criminals across the world.

When pardon can be sought for people who commit crimes that benefit no one, why should it not have been done for a person who was, after all, fighting for a great cause and when the greatest apostle of peace and non-violence was around?


Sam: A brave and warm-hearted hero

Bangladesh’s post-Independence victory against Pakistan was fresh in our memory when Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw was invited to the Annual function by the DAV College, Chandigarh in 1973. As a member of the teaching faculty, I was on the organising committee.

Three days before the function, rehearsals began to accord a hero’s welcome to him. The Chandigarh Administration and the local armed forces made elaborate arrangements including a big escort of officers, motorcyclists and jeeps to bring him from the airport to the college. Just a day before the function, news came in of his “famous” interview in which the Field Marshal had made a characteristic witty remark.

In that interview, the reporter had asked him about his decision to stay in India at the time of Partition. With a twinkle in his eye, the reporter said, “What would have happened, Sir, if you had gone to Pakistan?” Sam replied: “India would have lost the 1976 war.”

The political bureaucracy did not appreciate this wit, the Chandigarh Administration did not participate in the function and the Govt. of India almost forgot about him. Though Sam confessed later that it was a bad joke, the memory of this remark remained in the minds of our sensitive politicians and bureaucracy and hence they failed to pay an appropriate tribute at the time of his death.

With another colleague, I did a lot of research on his background, life and work to prepare a draft of the citation to be presented to him by Justice Tek Chand, the Managing Committee president. In the draft, I had referred to his daughters who were mostly named after varieties of drinks. The reference to the name of one member was a particularly hard type of drink. Since Justice Tek Chand was a prohibitionist, he dropped the reference while reading out the address. The Field Marshal, in his response said, to complete the record, he restored the omitted portion to the amusement and laughter of the audience.

The next day, the Field Marshal went to MCM DAV College for Women, Sector 36, to preside over their annual function. He presented awards to the girl students.

When the best NCC cadet of the college came up to receive the award, she saluted him. Sam bent down and said, “You deserve this” and kissed her on the cheek. This is in confirmation of General Ved Malik’s reference to Sam’s chivalry and romantic admiration of women (“Manekshaw: The legend lives on”, The Tribune, Saturday Extra, July 12). Of course, this action evoked waves of protest from some sections.

Sam was a brave, loving, and warm-hearted hero of the country and his memory will never fade away despite humourless and self-centered politicians and narrow-minded officials.

C.L. DHAMIJA, Chandigarh



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