Friday, May 19, 2017

Inspiration: Mughal-e-Azam

I'm honestly a little shocked that it took me so long to get to writing this post, considering how iconic Mughal-e-Azam is and how much I love it. Or rather, how much I love the music, because the movie itself doesn't impress the way the soundtrack does.

You see, Mughal-e-Azam centers around Anarkali, a mythical figure whose social status and adventures will vary drastically depending on which legend you're reading. In the film, she's a court dancer who falls in love with a fictionalized version of Prince Mirza Nur-ud-din Beig Mohammad Khan Salim (say that 12 times fast), much to the displeasure of Emperor Akbar. Akbar is so pissed about the romance, in fact, that he keeps tossing Anarkali in to dungeons between dance numbers. His son starts a rebellion to defend their love (which is totally not the reason the real Salim started a rebellion, but hey, romance!), there's eventually a truce, Anarkali spends some more time in a's kind of a long-winded mess. And I say that as somebody who generally loves historical epics of all sorts.

But guys, it's so damn pretty to look at, and the soundtrack will never leave my top 10 list. Mughal-e-Azam was also my introduction to the beloved Madhubala, who died tragically at the age of 36. I admit I was initially more drawn to the villainness Bahaar, played by Nigar Sultana, a less popular actress I nevertheless fell madly in love with. Like, hardcore love. I bought every movie I could find with her name in the credits. But Madhubala eventually grew on me.

So let's start with Bahaar! Here's her introduction in the film, showing her surreptitiously wearing a crown while she talks about her plan to become empress. God, I love this bitch. Also, take a close look at her eyes: the eyeliner in this film tends to be very stealthy, drawn close to the lashes and flicked out just a tad.

And is that warm pink lipstick the actual color she wore? We'll probably never know: only four reels were shot in color. If you saw Mughal-e-Azam when it was first released, you saw a movie that was almost entirely black-and-white with just a few scenes in Technicolor. The pictures you're about to see come from a re-colorized version of the film, meaning a company was paid big bucks to effectively paint the black and white scenes. (This information will be important later, I promise.)

Early in the film, Bahaar isn't a villain, just a pretty woman. Her makeup is less obvious, and she's shown in brighter, lighter clothing. This changes, though, when she encounters her rival for the prince's affections. Compare the picture on the left to the picture in the bottom right.

PS: Keep an eye out for this carefully-styled sideburns on other actors! Such a nice touch.

Here we see the more obvious eye makeup Bahaar rocks for the rest of the film. They also painted her lips a deeper plum shade in a number of scenes. And that beautiful powder blue ensemble she's wearing on the right is pretty much the only lightly-colored thing I can recall her wearing in the movie; for the rest of the film, she wears plenty of black and some deeper, more saturated colors.

I love the brow shape they used on all of the women in this movie: very soft, smooth, and round, with just a slight taper at the end.

Here's Bahaar in the film's final song sequence, gloating over the inevitable sad fate of our star-crossed lovers. I adore this last outfit of hers, a heavily-beaded, all-black number covered with jewelry. I also like that they painted her lips red to match the henna on her fingers and toes. I think, by the way, that this is one of the surviving scenes originally shot in technicolor--again, that'll be important later, I promise.

Let's move on to our Anarkali, played by Madhubala. Honestly, it took me a while to get the hype; I actually thought she was less pretty than Nigar Sultana the first time I saw the film. I think the difference is that Nigar has a very striking face with dramatic features, whereas Madhubala's face is a little more "open" and uniform. It takes a while to grow on you. I can now see that the perfect symmetry of her face, the natural rosebud shape of her lips, and the sparkle in her eyes made her one of the great Bollywood beauties.

Also, if you've ever seen any Bollywood images or gifs, you're probably recognizing this sequence. The image of Anarkali lifting her veil and giving us the first clear view of her face is especially famous:

A close-up of Anarkali's makeup in this scene--I can't remember any other scene where she's very clearly wearing eyeliner. Here she's got a bit of shadow smoked on her lids (also visible in the black and white version, though of course you can't tell what color it is) and some winged eyeliner. I get the impression they didn't use false lashes or even much mascara in this scene, but that definitely changes later. Her eyebrows also seem thinner and more arched.

Here's a more hazy sort of makeup: brown shades have been used to add definition to her eyes, her lips are glossy, and her brows are now less arched.

Oh, hey, and let's talk about the other girl in that second picture for a second!

That's Sheila Dalaya playing Anarkali's sister Suraiyya. She's a little firecracker of a character, with beautiful eyes and a smile that lights up the screen. I wish she got more screen time.

Alright, back to Madhubala.

Mughal-e-Azam's rendition of natural makeup on the top left, the day after on the right and bottom left. Sometimes you'll notice this glossy texture on the lids, and I'm wondering what they used to do it. I'd actually love to duplicate that look nowadays, but I hate the feeling of lipgloss on the lids and I can't seem to find a face gloss I like. If anybody has a recommendation, hook a sister up.

Black-and-white films used to use glitter or even gold dust on actress' skin to create a luminous effect. You can see it a bit on Madhubala's forehead here, and if you actually watch the film, you'll see her face glittering at a few points. While the reflect looks outright glittery in color, it's not as visible if you watch the same scenes in black and white. Case in point:

Somebody who is more science-y needs to explain this to me. Is it because the fewer colors in the black and white version creates a blurred effect? Do we just notice light more when it's "colorful?" Heeeelp!

There are definitely some false eye lashes on the bottom left.

One of the things I find very interesting is how clear Madhubala's acne is under her makeup in some scenes. I don't say that to be nasty: I'm honestly glad that a great beauty didn't have to have skin like porcelain to be considered lovely.

The pictures of Anarkali wearing that stunning red and blue outfit come from the song sequence for "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kiya." It's the film's most popular song, one of the most famous scenes, and one of the sequences filmed in Technicolor. It's an absolutely stunning piece of cinematography with great music, so please consider giving it a watch. I really enjoy the makeup, too; the red lipstick and blush read very 50s to me. Oh, and fun fact: that style of clothing is actually called an anarkali.

Okay,'s what the whole "what is the original Technicolor and what was recolored?" thing gets screwy. In this scene, Anarkali leaves the room wearing a warm pink lipstick, the same color the colorization company painted on half of the women for most of the film. Then she enters another room for the final music sequence, the veil comes off...and she's wearing a rich red. Did they screw up the recoloring process? Or was that song sequence filmed in Technicolor, and that red is the appropriate color? I think it was the latter, based on how the entire scene looks. So why recolor her lips peach instead of red? I dunno, I'm probably overreacting, but it drives me batty.

More gratuitous pretty! The jewelry is very carefully colored to match the wearer's clothing--such a nice touch. Also, I dig dudes who wear pastels and pink.

When Salim first sees Anarkali, he actually thinks she's a statue. A sculptor hasn't been able to finish his work, so he's covered Anarkali in gray paint and asked her to stand in the statue's place. It's actually kind of cool.

Let's show some love for yellow in this movie. I look like garbage in yellow, but it works well in Mughal-e-Azam.

These bitches have a "melodic debate" about love with background singers in matching outfits. I just can't, you guys; it's too good. You may find the singing grating if you aren't used to the back-of-the-throat, up-in-the-nose sort of vocals so prevalent in classical Indian music, but I love it.

Fair warning: newer copies of this film usually include the digitally remastered version of the music, which is clearer and less grainy. But this was the only decent version of "Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Azmakar" I could find with English subtitles. My apologies for the sound quality. If you like the lyrics, definitely check out the remastered version.

1 comment: