Scene by Scene: Romance Mughal Style!

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When I was asked to pick my favourite romantic scene from a Hindi film I sat myself down and had a bit of a think. This was going to be very difficult… picking one scene out of so many is no easy task. The longer and harder I thought, the more my mind would come and settle on a black and white classic and personal favourite Mughal-e-Azam – the original costume drama. A film that took over a decade to make can be nothing else but special.

A young Dilip Kumar as Salim, a luminous Madhubala as Anarkali, candlelight and a declaration of love. Set in Anarkali’s quarters this is the scene where a freshly rejected Salim comes to see a lovelorn Anarkali who refuses to accept her love for the prince. This is the scene where the legendary romance between Salim and Anarkali commences. What happens next is a headstrong Prince convinces an astonishingly attractive courtesan that the difference in their positions in society is not an issue and he will do nothing but love her.

I saw this film for the first time at age 13. As the eternal romantic, this scene encapsulated so many things for me then and even more now at the age of 26. At the age of 13 this was the quintessential love story. It was about a handsome prince coming and sweeping you of your feet; it was about a warrior who had a heart. Love defied society and norms. This was the stuff fairy tales were made off. At the age of 26 it is all that and more.

The scene is about the intensity with which the lead actors lend themselves to the characters that they stop being Dilip Kumar and Madhubala but become Salim and Anarkali. It is about the dialogue shared between the two consisting of sheer poetry. Asif’s conscious use of Urdu as the language of preference is a perfect and natural choice, especially as demonstrated in this scene. Urdu has the ability to display beauty of such magnitude with a shadow of melancholy in the same breath.

It is about the subliminal messages that have made this scene so magical. The language has helped the dialogue express the passions involved and the suffering that would soon follow. The shadows and whispers under which the relationship starts and is continued to the apparent end when Anarkali is swept away from Salim, the candlelight going out which is suggestive of the future of their doomed relationship. The gentle background score, the husky voices of the doomed lovers makes the scene so emotionally charged even today. This is romance – Mughal style.

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