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K Asif - the creator of Mughal-e-Azam; let us remember him today!
"Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with." ? Brodi Ashton

Let this scribe confess that apart from Shri Mulayam Singh's Yadav clan and Lady Pupul Jayakar, who was a writer, activist and social worker, he can't recall very many names of luminaries from Etawah, UP. There is one exception of course - the sun of the soil but sorrowfully forgotten by his own people. He was K Asif!

As the history of Indian architecture is incomplete without describing the Taj Mahal, similarly the history of the Indian film industry would remain incomplete if you don't bring K Asif and his magnum opus 'Mughal-e-Azam.' 

So many Indian films have been commercially successful but the status of 'Mughal-e-Azam' as a highest quality product would remain unchallenged in the annals of the film industry. It was completed after 14 years of sweat and sacrifices and there was only one man who believed in his project ? it was K Asif. He was able to convince his generous Parsi producer Shapoorji Pallunji that the film would make its deepest and brightest mark once it is completed.

'Mughal-e-Azam was inspired by the Ardhsher Irani's successful film "Anakali" and the drama was written by Syed Imtiaz Ali 'Taj.' Once the story of 'Anarkali' took Asif's fancy, he decided to make it with his friend ? producer Sheeraz Ali Hakim. The well-known actors of that time, Chandrababu, Sapru and Nargis were signed for the film. And the shooting started at Bombay Talkies Studio but the project was staved off. Indian sub-continent was divided and Sheeraz Ali migrated to Pakistan. In 1952, the project was revived.

Asif was an impulsive, persistent and stubborn individual. Even the style he smoked his cigarette was unique. He would hold the cigarette between his thumb, his middle finger and his index finger like a pencil while the united fingers were cupped perched at the palm of other hand. He never owned a car and always preferred to travel in taxi.

The famous novelist and story writer Saadat Hasan Mantu had described him as an ordinary person with no remarkable achievements to his credit except his doggedness, his grit and his determination. Asif was a man or iron will. Once he made up his mind to do something he would see it through. He had great confidence in himself. His colleagues would be dazzled and overwhelmed over his confidence rather overconfidence. He used the great maestros of music, lyrics, dialogue writers, art directors, actors and character artists with energy, enthusiasm, style and ease. Mughl-e-Azam had 13 songs in the final print but Asif had got down 72 songs before the final decision to include. It was not easy to take out work from the Azeem Fankar Kamal Amrohi and Wajahat Mirza as dialogue writers; Shakeel Badayuni as song writer. It required great savoir faire to prepare the Tansen of 20th century ? Bade Ghulam Ali to sing for the film. Bade Ghulam Ali, after his initial blunt refusal to sing for the film, had agreed to trill for Rs 25,000. The biggest singers were paid within Rs 1000 for the song in those days. Naushad Saheb, the music director was a man for big ego. Asif had a lot of problems with him. To cap it all, the hero and heroine of the film were passing through the intense and excruciating period of their romance and break-ups. With the tantrums of their personal equation, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were part of the problem and not the solution. K Asif had successfully managed all those tortuous terrains and kept the pesky producer on his side.   

Every item and article he used in Mughl-e-Azam was real that include the golden statue of Lord Krishna, the Sheesh Mahal and iron manacle with which Anakali was chained. At the time when the total cost of a film produced was within the range of 5 ? 10 lakh rupees, K Asif had got the Mughl-e-Azam in Rs 1.5 ? 2 crore. The animals mostly used in war and corteges like horses were imported from foreign lands. He took the permission of the Ministry of Defence and Jaipur Regiment of Indian Army to shoot the scenes of fight between Akbar-e-Azam, the king and Nooruddin Mohammed Saleem, the heir apparent. Mr Krishna Menon who was the Defence Minister that time visited to watch the shots being taken. It was an uphill task  

The technical expertise was taken from America and Europe. K Asif did stick for nothing in shooting this film. He took Sir David Lean, a famous English film director, producer, screenwriter and editor, responsible for large-scale epics such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' as a consultant for Mugahl-e-Azam. Lots of anecdotes are narrated about the making history of Mugahl-e-Azam and that would require a complete book. K Asif had learned every trick of the trade on the job. There had not been any strings of great stories about his previous film. He had two other films ? 'Phool' and 'Hulachal' that had registered moderate success. He couldn't complete the last ambitious project of his life 'Mohabbat Aur Khuda' starring Nimmi and Guru Datt. The great actor died and the film was made with Sanjeev Kumar.

Unfortunately, during the production of the film, K Asif died on 9 March 1971 at the age of 48 and the film was abandoned. In 1986, the film was released by his widow. However, it went unnoticed.

The greatest Indian director K Asif was born on 14th June 1922.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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