“Mughal-e-Azam: The Musical’ has garnered tremendous appreciation and been a grand success in all its four seasons staged in Mumbai. While the play has been produced by Shapoorji Pallonji and NCPA together; the association between Shapoorji Pallonji and Mughal-e-Azam goes back decades.
Says Deepesh Salgia, Director, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, “We have always looked upon Mughal-e-Azam as a work of art, be it the original film, its colour version and now the play. Our vision for Mughal-e-Azam has always been that the creative expression should only be constrained by imagination and not by budgets.”
The epic period film, which has now been re-adapted as a Broadway-style musical play, is even today widely considered to be a milestone in its genre, earning accolades from critics & audiences for its grandeur and attention to detail. Released on 5th August 1960, it created new box office records in India and has till date remained the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time and has also set new benchmarks in cinema production.
It all dates back to the year 1944, when director K. Asif decided to begin developing the script for the film. The original production (starring Chandramohan, Nargis and Sapru) was plagued by financial uncertainty due to partition of India.
Deepesh Salgia adds, “After adjusting for inflation, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ remains the most expensive films of its time till date in Bollywood. The budget for a single song sequence exceeded the usual production budget required for an entire film of that time. Even with all these teething troubles & complications, Seth Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry believed in K. Asif’s vision and set upon himself to produce the Rs 1.5 crore epic in 1950s.”
Though the film released creating Box-Office records but K Asif’s vision remained incomplete. Only four out of the twenty reels could be made in colour (as colour technology arrived only towards the end of the production). K. Asif’s wish was to see the entire film in colour.
In 2004, Shapoorji Pallonji invested huge sums in developing the technology to colour the film. The fully restored and colourised film with Dolby Digital sound recreated by Naushad, was released by Shapoorji Pallonji. Mughal-e-Azam then became the first film in the world cinema to be colorised for big screen release. Asif’s wish was fulfilled, 44 years after the original film was released. The colour version again set the box-office on fire and ran for over 25 weeks in theatres.
Today with the phenomenal success of the play, the legacy of this association has been further cemented. Talking about the play’s success, Deepesh Salgia asserts, “57 shows across four seasons, all being HOUSE FULL. It’s an unthinkable scene at the Box-Office for Indian theatres. The bigger pleasure is when one sees young ones in 20s and 30s coming to theatre holding hands of their grandparents and enjoying the play together. Business is not only about revenues, it is also about touching emotions.”
By the year 2020, on the occasion of the iconic film completing 60 years, Shapoorji Pallonji intends to spread its roots in many other countries of the world by staging the play internationally, further redefining the way theatre plays are staged and setting new benchmarks.