Mughal-e-Azam (1960) 




Director:  K. Asif. 

Cast:  Prithviraj Kapoor (Badshah Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar), Madhubala (Anarkali), Durga Khote (Empress Jodha Bai), Nigar Sultana (Bahar), Ajit (Durjan Singh), M. Kumar (Sculptor Sangtaraash), Murad (Raja Mann Singh), Jilloo Maa (Anarkali's Mother), Vijayalaxmi, S. Nazir, Sheela Delaya (Suraiya, Anarkali's Sister), Surendra, Johnny Walker, Jalal Agha (Young Prince Saleem), Tabassum.

16th century war between crown prince Sali and his father, the great Mogul emperor Akbar, over a beautiful court dancer


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Emperor Akbar's palace, 400 years ago.  Akbar travels to meet the Holy One, Salimuddin Chisti, to get his blessing that may lead Akbar to an heir.  His hope is that his wife Jodha will be made fertile.  His wish seems to be granted for Akbar and Jodha have a son.  As the prince grows up he becomes more and more disobedient.  As a youngster he takes to drinking liquor.  Akbar becomes so discouraged at his son's misbehavior that he gives him to Man Singh, who will take Prince Salim into battle with him. 

The Prince has now been in battle for some fourteen years.  His father is very happy with the reports that have come to him about his son.  The Emperor orders the Prince back.  Prince Salim comes home in a grand procession.  He greets his mother who is very happy to see him.  A sculpture is presented in honor of the Prince and Salim is very impressed.  But it soon becomes known that the statue is not a statue at all, but a young slave girl named Nadia.  The Emperor is so impressed that he has Nadia named Anarkali and given a job as a hand maiden.  To celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna, Anarkali dances and sings for the Emperor.  Salim is so happy with the performance that he throws his own pearl necklaces to her. 

Suraiya, Anarkali's sister, teases her about being in love with the Prince.  For her sister, Suraiya goes to see the Prince.    She tells the Prince that her sister is in love with him.  Anarkali receives a note from the Prince.   In the note, the Prince says he loves her and asks her to send him a reply in a flower to be sent via the palace waters.  The flower floats to the Prince.  But the Prince does not like the response.  She declines because she is a slave girl.  The Prince goes to Anarkali.  He promises to tear down the walls between them.  But Anarkali is doubtful.  She believes that she will dishonor him f he is seen with her.  (Bahar, the maid to the Queen, sees the couple together and does not like what she sees.) 

Bahar pretends to be helping Anarkali.  She asks Anarkali to perform in a recitation contest with her with the Prince as the judge.  The Prince chooses Bahar as the winner and presents her with the flower of victory.  He gives Anarkali the thorn. 

The province of Ajmer may revolt.  This upsets the Emperor.  Prince Salim tells Suraiya to tell her sister that he needs her.  But the Emperor wants the Prince to pay more attention to mundane matters; certain public works need to be performed immediately.  Suraiya gives Anarkali the message from the Prince and they meet again.  Bahar watches them.  The couple kiss.  Then they hear a twig break.  Anarkali leaves and the Prince says:  "The intruder will see me in my chambers."  Bahar reports to him.  He throws a knife at her that comes close to her head.  She says that she wishes it had hit her.  The Prince says that she shall be silenced.

Bahar leaves, but goes to Emperor Akbar to tell him about his son's new love.  The Prince says that Anarkali shall sit beside him as the Empress of Hindustan.  The Emperor goes to speak with his son.  Hearing that the Emperor approaches, Anarkali runs, but she runs right into Emperor Akbar.  So she runs back to Prince Salim and faints in his arms.  The Emperor arrives and leaves.  A soldier grabs Anarkali and throws her into a jail cell.  The Prince threatens some action if Anarkali is not set free.  He wants the Emperor's seal on an acquittal for Anarkali:  "If Anarkali be not acquitted, then tonight augurs dear not for Anarkali, but for Emperor Akbar and his dreams." 

Anarkali is brought to the Emperor.  Have recent events dashed her dreams of becoming Empress?  The Emperor threatens worse darkness for the young woman.  He tells her:  "You must forget Prince Salim."  He then tells her that she must convince the Prince that she does not love him, nor did she ever love him.  The order is to prove to the Prince that her love is untrue.  She gives in to the Emperor and says:  "I will try."  The Emperor sets her free.  Bahar continues to spy on Anarkali. 

Bahar makes up lies about Anarkali for the Prince and when Anarkali tries to act untrue, Prince Salim slaps her and calls her a betrayer and a whore.  Now she is just a "blot" on his name. 

Anarkali performs a dance before the court in which she pleads her case of love for the Prince.  The Emperor is infuriated with her audacity and has her thrown in the darkest part of the dungeon.  The Prince says that the Emperor's act was one of vindictiveness.  Emperor Akbar tells the Prince that he will have to change.  But the Prince does not at all seem interested in changing to please his father. 

Anarkali's mother comes to the Emperor to plead that he save her Nadia.  Bahar gives the Prince the key to her dungeon cell.  The Prince and Anarkali try to escape, but they are captured. 

The Prince begs his mother for help.  At first she is not very supportive, telling him:  "Do nothing to denigrate yourself."  But when the Emperor gives the order for Salim to be sent to fight in the campaign of Deccan, the Queen tells him that her son will not go to war.  She tells Akbar:  "Let him have Anarkali."  But the Emperor only disregards what she tells him.  Salim becomes even more defiant and mad.  He asks his close friend Durjan to protect Anarkali in his absence.  Durjan agrees to protect her. 

The army, along with the Prince, marches for the Deccan.  The sculptor goes to see the Emperor.  He tells him that he faces starvation.  The Emperor replies:  "Not any more."  He gives the sculptor jewels and says he will wed Anarkali.  The sculptor replies that he is beholden to the Emperor.  But later the sculptor refuses the marriage.  For this his head will be crushed by an elephant's foot.  To avoid this, the sculptor escapes and goes to tell the news to the Prince.  In response, the Prince sends a message to the Emperor declaring his independence and saying that he will revolt.   The Emperor is a very stubborn man and declares:  "We shall fight."

Before going into battle the Queen is to present the Emperor's sword to Akbar.  But this time she refuses saying that the sword will be used to kill her son.  Akbar tries to force his wife to present him with the sword.  She is presented with a choice:  her son or her husband.  The Queen drops the sword at the sound of this.  Eventually, the Queen presents him with the sword. 

The Emperor's plan is to have Anarkali killed.   Durjan overhears the plan and fights to get Anarkali out of her cell.  He kills several of the jailers, but he is wounded and forced to the ground. 

It is time for the battle.  The Emperor pays his son a visit.  He asks the Prince for his love due to a father.  But Salim remains defiant.  The Emperor tells him that at the sounding of the war drums, Anarkali will die.  This makes Salim very despondent.  Durjan arrives all bloodied.  He then brings in the live Anarkali.  Salim is now very happy.  The Prince now calls off the war.  But his father refuses.  He then tries to make Anarkali feel bad about what is going to happen to Prince Salim.

The battle begins.  A cannonade forces the Emperor from his battle elephant.  He then mounts a horse.  Before he leaves to fight his son, he tells his men to kill Anarkali who is on the battlefield.  Durjan comes to the rescue again.  He grabs Anarkali and puts her on his horse.  They are, however, soon surrounded by the Emperor's soldiers on horseback.  But then, another cannonade blows a whole in the encirclement, and Durjan and Anarkali are able to escape. 

The Emperor and the Prince have a very long sword fight while on horseback.  He knocks the Prince's sword from his hand. 

The Emperor returns to the Queen.  He is happy to show her that there is not a drop of blood on his sword.  The Prince is captured and will be sentenced.    On the day of sentencing, the Emperor tells the Prince that he will pardon him, if he returns Anarkali for execution.  The Prince refuses.  He is sentenced to death.  The people in the court beg for mercy, but Akbar refuses.  An exhausted Durjan arrives to bring news of Anarkali and then dies. 

Salim's death speech says:  "Stand fast by those in love, not by those who are mighty."  The Emperor lights the cannon fuse that will send a cannon ball slamming into Salim.  Suddenly, Anarkali shows up.  Akbar raises the cannon barrel just enough for the cannon ball to miss its target.  The Prince is saved.  But not Anarkali.  The Emperor gives the order for Anarkali to be buried alive.  To make sure that the Prince does not interfere, the Emperor has Anarkali go to him and wave a feather under his nose  -- a feather soaked in sleeping potions.  Anarkali performs the task, but it does not completely knock out the Prince.  He tries but fails to stop the guards from taking Anarkali away. 

Anarkali is walled in by brick layers.  Only the view of her eyes now need to be blocked in.  This is done.  But on the other side of the wall,  we see that Anarkali is not blocked in at all.  With the Emperor present, she is released, much to the joy of her mother.  She rejoins Prince Salim. 


Good story, but a little long at over three hours. The dialogue for Prince Salim at times is really good with great defenses of love and wicked criticisms of despots.  This is a modified Romeo and Juliet story.  Toward the ending, I was getting tired.  There were many twists and turns and after awhile I felt it was becoming a bit too melodramatic:  kill 'em already, or unite them, but get this over.  There is not a lot of history per se here.  But it does give us the chance to ponder the Mughal Dynasty's rule over India. 

 Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background: 

The Mughal Empire  (early 16th to mid 19th centuries)

The word Mughal is Persian in origin.  It refers to central Asian nomads who were descended from Genghis Khan's Mongol warriors.

early 1500s  --  start of the Mughal Empire. 

1504  --  foundation of the Mughal Empire by the Timurid prince Babur.  He took control of Kabul (in Afghanistan) and the eastern regions of Khorasan (controlling the Sind region and the lower valley of the Indus River). 

1556  --  the classic period of the Empire begins  with the accession of Akbar (1542-1605).  He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun. He was Turkic (and distantly Mongolian).  He is considered the greatest of the Mughal emperors.  He married many Rajput princesses from the powerful Rajput caste.

1569  --  birth of Prince Salim (later Nuruddin Salim Jahangir), Akbar's first surviving child.  His mother, Hira Kunwari (later Jodhabai), was the daughter of the King of Amber.

1581  --  at 12 years of age, Jahangir independently commanded a regiment in the Kabul campaign.

1585  --  marriage of Jahangir with his cousin Man Baiplace.  Over time, he had 20 wives.  One of his favorite wives was Jagat Gosain.  Her son by Jahangir, Prince Khurram, became Jahangir's successor to the throne, the future Shah Jahan. 

1599-1604  --  Jahangir (Salim) revolted against Akbar.  In fact, he was frequently in rebellion against his father. Akbar captured Asirgarh, a fort in the Deccan, as he marched north to defeat Salim's rebellion.

1605  --  Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (1569-1627) becomes at the age of 36 the ruler of the Mughal Empire. 

1606  --  Jahangir fights off Prince Khusraw, one of his sons, who claimed the right to the throne. 

The British East India Company gets formal permission to trade freely in the Mughal Empire.

1611  --  Prince Salim married Nur Jahan, "Light of the World".

1627  --  death of Jahangir.  Prince Salim became Shah Jahangir and ruled to 1658.  (Janhangir means "Seizer of the World".)  Mughal painting reached its zenith under Jahangir.  In this he was helped by his wife. 

c. 1700  --  the Mughal Empire was at the height of its power.  It covered most of the Indian subcontinent and today's Afghanistan with a population from 100-150 million. 

1707  --   the classic period of the Empire ends with the death of Aurangzeb. 

after 1720  --  the Mughal Empire started to decline rapidly.

1857 --    the last Emperor was imprisoned and exiled by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)