K.Asif's swansong is great not because its Akbar's tale but because it is adapted from the legend of 'Anarkali'-a courtesan in the Moghul court who bewitched the young prince Saleem into rebellion against his parents-the great Jodha Akbar who are portrayed here immortally by the definitive talent of Durga Khote and Prithvi Raj ,
the multi-layered plot builds on Imtiaz li Taj's Urdu play embellishing it with the magical dialogues penned by 4 geniuses, the great Kaifi azmi ,Aman ,Amrohi and K.Asif himself ,they might have decided to write for each character as their are 4 major pillars that carry this Indian pantheon -Akbar ,Jodha,Saleem and the IMMORTAL ANARKALI ,played with a celestial charm by Madhubala ,she looks like a houri and acts with a natural credibility that will make Katherine hepburn and Ingrid bergman green with envy,
The expansive sweeping narrative showcases the great court with the Navratnas,the secular emperor with his 200 wives from vicarious faiths,his Hindu queen and her devotion to him and her tragic struggle when she is torn between son and her husband ,the Deccan war campaign is detailed with spectacular battle scenes and inimitable art direction which beats Hollywood to a pulp fiction.
The incerdible romance is all put into a wordless sequence where Saleem-Anarkali are having a clandestine meeting in a palace grove ,with TANSEN [USTAD GHULAM ALI KHAN]chanting the great evening Raga in the background ,and they are surprised by the entry of the mighty emperor .Madhu swoons limplessly in the arms of Saleem while the two royals lock in a fierce gaze of a war of wills ,the sequence is pure cinema and great too .I have'nt seen anything that equals this furious yet tender demonstration of romance and insubordination ever .
The music is absolutely mesmerizing whether the backgroungd score or the seven songs ,two are devotional -the bhajan is rendered as a song dance in a court festival and the 'naat' in a prison with Lata and Naushad at their best ,but just watch the camera take in the wonders of the mirror palace in the song dance 'JAB PYAR KIYA',and you will witness how enchanting but realistic Madhubala was as the pristine ANARKALI,doomed from the moment she is unveiled by Saleem as a statue before the emperor.
This is a linguistic and a cinematic delight and Prithviraj,Dilip and Durga play the royal trio with absolute grace and total conviction,this by any terms is great cinema from its lyrical prose to its wide screen magical execution of mobs and marauding armies, but that's not all -it is armed with a heart and soul as the tragic figure of a grief stricken benumbed Anarkali is escorted by the royal gaurd to part from her true love into eternity itself ,the expressions of Mahubala indicate a profoundly cold haughty indifference to the great king while his tremulous voice and stooping posture speak volumes that the great Akbar has finally been defeated by Apollo in the form of a fragile ordinary girl -amazing indeed; and worth its weight in gold .
It is an impossible task for cinema to make anything so profoundly human,artistic,aesthetic and yet intelligent and despite all that it is still an epic blockbuster after 60 years and gaining momentum every day .
usman latif khawaja- jbz7879