THE magnificence of Mughal-e-Azam has been demonstrated by the many magical moments connected to the movie since it was released in 1960.
Whether being named as the greatest Bollywood movie of all time or used to describe excellence, the K Asif-directed epic has been on a majestic 63-year journey. It was recently named as the highest-grossing Indian film in history, if inflation is taken into account, and this month has done something extraordinary in America. In 2016, an official live adaptation redefined theatre in India. After more than 200 shows across six countries, including India, Singapore, Malaysia, the UAE, and Qatar, the official Mughal-e-Azam stage show has embarked on a massively successful US tour.
After a stunning dance performance in New York’s Time Square to promote the show in May, it premiered in Atlanta and has been staged at major theatres in multiple States. This American tour, which goes on until August, is particularly special because it is breaking ground in the cinema capital of the world and succeeding where other Bollywood inspired shows have failed. This includes the big-budget Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge stage adaptation, which spent a lot of money modifying itself for western audiences, and ultimately crashed before it could get going in America last year.
Meanwhile, the Mughal-e-Azam theatre play has pulled in audiences of all ages and received critical acclaim, while retaining its authenticity. The American adventure was kickstarted by late filmmaker K Asif’s son Akbar Asif in 2020, when he marked 60 years of the movie, by getting it to become the first classic Indian film to have its screenplay submitted to the Oscars library. So, in essence, the musical has gone from the Oscars library to Times Square to a full American tour.
The London-based businessman has worked tirelessly to keep the legacy of his father’s movie alive. From enabling Mughal-e-Azam to lift the Bollywood ban in Pakistan with a charity screening, to getting India’s greatest painter MF Husain to do his last major collection inspired by the movie, to many live events, he has consistently flown the flag for his father’s movie masterpiece.
A major hero has been Deepesh Salgia of the Shapoorji Pallonji group, who has been a driving force in keeping the Mughal-e-Azam legacy alive, doing everything from colourising the movie to getting the official stage version produced. His passion has inspired a new generation to get behind the magnificent movie, including this current America tour.
Another notable hero has been ace theatre director Feroze Abbas Khan, who took on the Herculean task of masterminding the official theatre adaptation and delivering a thrilling live experience, equal to anything produced internationally.
Theatre maestro Khan said they had created the kind of product India and Indians can be very proud of. He further stated: “We never expected this kind of a response. We know that this play is something that has a very special place in the heart of the audience because of the original film. But the way they’re responding to the play, it is simply outstanding. I’m speechless with what’s been happening here in the US.”
The live theatre show will inevitably come to the UK and when it does, audiences are in for a spectacular multi-sensory experience. Another certainty is that the 63-year old movie will continue to achieve many more landmarks thanks to heroes like Deepesh Salgia, Akbar Asif and Feroze Abbas Khan.