Blu Ray Review: Mughal-E-Azam (1960)


Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Blu Ray

Directed byK. Asif
Produced byShapoorji Pallonji
Written byAman
Kamal Amrohi
K. Asif
Wajahat Mirza
Ehsan Rizvi
StarringPrithviraj Kapoor
Madhubala
Durga Khote
Dilip Kumar
Music byNaushad
CinematographyR. D. Mathur
Edited byDharamvir
Production
company
Sterling Investment Corporation
Release dateAugust 5, 1960
Re-Release dateNovember 12, 2004
Running time197 minutes
CountryIndia
LanguageHindiUrdu
Budget₹10.5–15 million
Box office₹110 million

Blu Ray Disc Technical Aspects

VideoCodec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
AudioHindi: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (96kHz, 24-bit)
Hindi: Dolby Digital 5.1
SubtitlesEnglish
Arabic
DiscsMovie Disc (1 BD-50)
Special Features (1 DVD-8)
PlaybackRegion free

Movie Review:

Mughal-E-Azam is a classic, in the absolute form, there is no debate on this, from the time the film began until its release and its eventual re-release, the legend of a film of this magnitude is unattainable even by today’s standards. There is a novel experience watching the movie, you have not seen anything like it, imagine at the time of its initial release being sucked into its beautiful visuals, lilting poetry, enchanting music and characters that left an indelible impact on its audience.

K. Asif strength for this film lies in its screenplay and dialogues. It may have featured characters from 16AD but its relatability is evergreen. There was sense of achievement at the finished product, that had neither been seen or heard of before. The journey of getting Mughal-E-Azam completed in its 15 year making is a story on it own. We’ve heard many wonders at the making of the film and its royal soundtrack.

The story is actually quite simple and had been applied to many films before Mughal-E-Azam, the novel factor came in its execution. K. Asif spared no detail to make its audience feel like they were living in the time of Shahenshah Akbar. The lavish sets, and characters with their authentic display of emotion and matching events that unfold as a backdrop was an idea that paid off big time. But the power in that execution was the characters profiles that mouthed off exquisite poetry that melted hearts. Add a maestro like Naushad and there was nothing to lose.

Rekindling it’s emotional impact was the colourisation of the original film, which was shot mostly in Black & White. K. Asif had shot one reel in colour and chose the perfect setting to showcase his venture in just that one reel, which included two dance scenes in the Sheesh Mahal and the climax. Having watched both versions, i still prefer the original Black & White initial release; and this is my opinion. The colourised version may have garnered some internal technical compliments such as “The First Film In World” to complete this feat but i have reservations. How much liberty was taken that actually derails K. Abbas’s thought process. The end result looked somewhat animated at most portions; making it a bit difficult to fathom. Cutting out two songs, as well edits that just don’t feel right; if a revised edition came out 44 years after the original, a complete film should have been released, also with a big marketing statement that this version fulfils the late K. Asif’s “unfulfilled dream”.

With that being said, let talk about the performances. The film belongs to its principle characters. I think more than anything, it was their conviction in playing their parts that made Mughal-E-Azam a resounding success. Prithviraj Kapoor as Shahenshah Akbar is exquisitely rendered, there is not a point in the film where he loses focus. He embodies the Mughal Emperor with such a creative streak, that we forget Prithviraj Kapoor. Same can be said for Salim played by Dilip Kumar, a character of great nobility, who probably drew from his own personal experience. His interaction with Anarkali, Akbar or even Jodhabai are resoundingly beautiful. Madhubala as Anarkali embodies her soul, Madhubala is Anarkali till the end of time. Her scenes are embodied in the audiences’ mind and hearts. Many people still say that when someone mentions Mughal-E-Azam, its Madhubala’s face that they immediately visualise. Durga Khote as Maharani Jodhabai is amazing too, she pours her love and pain into every facet of these reels. The supporting cast too also leave an impact, making sure to bring K. Asif’s dream to life.

Music played an essential role in enhancing the narrative, and Naushad gloriously brings the Mughal era alive, with his breath taking music. For more on this, read the Mughal-E-Azam music review that i had done earlier on this site.

The Colourised version made it to Blu ray from Shemaroo. Read further to see its Video / Audio technical merit.

Picture Quality:

Let us start with statements made by the technical team:

“Restoration is an essential process of the colourisation. Intense restoration was undertaken as the frames were in bad condition. The negative that was being scanned was actually a dupe negative that was made in the early 80’s after the original negative had been used for more than twenty years.

Restoration included digitising the 300 000 frames of the film at 2K resolution, gamma correction, contrast correction, scratch removal, pinholes removal, digital stitching of torn frames, stabilisation, fungus correction and various other digital restoration techniques. Each step involved processing 3000 GB of data. The work was done shot-by-shot or frame-by-frame depending on the condition of the negatives. All the above work was performed by a team of restoration specialists working on high-end computers at Iris Interactive, Chennai these frames were then made ready for colourisation.

In the west, colourisation has been looked at as an artificial work or as an unethical attempt to touch an artist’s creation. In this case, the purpose was to complete an unfulfilled dream of the creator. The task was undertaken by the original production company, Sterling Investment Corp. Pvt. Ltd. The Original music composer re-recorded the music in a digital environment and the original artists always supported the idea. Hence, there is no unethical attempt.

The software that was used has a very important feature that accepts only those colours that match the gray shades of the original input. This ensures that the final colours are as close as possible to the original.

Since, the kind of colourisation required for Mughal-E-Azam was never done before (Mughal-E-Azam has a rich use of exquisite jewellery, fine clothing, grand sets). A special software had to be written to incorporate such features and that too for a 35 mm release.

Since the film is an historical film, the colour scheme was regularly discussed with historians. History books of medieval times were referred in order to get the essence of the Mughal Era. An in-depth research of 18 months was undertaken before the actual colourisation started in October 2004 at Indian Academy of Arts and Animation, Mumbai. The whole technology development and execution was undertaken in India.

Post Production: The whole film (frame-by-frame) was then given a finished product look through colour balancing and was digitally converted to Wide-Screen format and then recorded to make a new negative at Rajtaru Videosonic, Mumbai.”

Kudos to the technical team for achieving this feat, but and this is a huge one, there are many problems that plague this blu ray released by Shemaroo.

The run-time of the original movie clocked in at 197 minutes, this blu ray clock in at 183 minutes. So there 14 minutes stolen from the audience of the new colourised version. The Shemaroo dvd of the original Black & White (Partly Colour) version has the total 197 minutes

Firstly, the aspect ratio of the film; the Original aspect ratio of the film was 1.37 : 1, this was then cropped to widescreen 1.78 : 1. Here already we see the technical department have made a huge mistake by employing this method; you technically lose 10-15% of the original image by doing this, so much for an ethical attempt. Plus the cover states that the Aspect Ratio is 2,35 : 1. Who is Shemaroo trying to fool? They have employed this method even with later blu ray releases of all it’s older film catalogue titles like Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Mera Naam Joker, Sangam and Amar Akbar Anthony. With the re-framing of film, some parts of the film are shaky. I put in the B&W DVD just to compare especially during the ‘Mohabbat Ki Jhoothi’ song sequence. It held much better in the B&W DVD. Look at the comparison shot below.

You notice the fakeness of newly coloured portions immediately, it really should not have been tampered with. Two things to note here, i have the Eros DVD of the coloured version and this was actually much better presented, the colours didn’t look as garish and animated as this blu ray, which indicates that Shemaroo did some post technical work of applying DNR excessively which allows for the exact situation, and also the original colour scenes are much more natural looking then the rest of the film. The scenes from the song ‘Yeh Dil Ki Lagi’ right to the end looks absolutely beautiful; Unfortunately though not much was done when the film was restored, there are blemishes and lines all over the print. It holds decently but it is noticeable.

The Shemaroo watermark makes an appearance during the songs and some scenes for a brief time. Subtitles also look 50% larger and is quite intrusive.

Blu Ray Screenshots:

Audio Quality:

Again from the technical team:

The Original song track of the film was a Mono recording with a single track with no separate tracks for the voice and the instruments. Making a true to life, 6.1 Dolby Digital / DTS mix from such a track was almost an impossible task. The solution was provided by modern technology, employing a multi-level process.

Sound-Restoration: The first part was cleaning the noise imbued within the old track with the assistance of Chace productions LA, a specialist in cleaning old tracks who have earlier worked on Hollywood classics like ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘ A Bridge on the Rive Kwai’ etc.

Separation of voice track from the mixed track: The second complicated task was separation of the voice track from the Mono mixed track. This was painstakingly undertaken at Ava Studio, Mumbai.

Re-Recording: Then came the creative part of re-recording the original background score. At the young age of 84, Naushad Sahib worked with his team along with 60 chorus singers and 120 musicians playing original Hindustani Classical instruments. A special team of Musicians was called from Chennai for the strings section.

6.1 Mix: The last step comprised mixing the immortal voices of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Rafi Sahib, Lataji and Shamshad Begumji with the digitally re-recorded background music.

The Final sound track is now a true Dolby / DTS 6.1 mix and is as aesthetically satisfying as an original composition and as technologically advanced as any 2005 recording.

This re-creation (colourisation and sound enhancement) that took 30 months of hard work is a true first in the history of the world cinema and a proud moment for the Indian Film Industry.

The audio is a travesty to behold. I am really disappointed. The film initially released in Mono Sound, and with the re-release of the colour version it was mixed into a 6.1 channel sound mix. Now, whilst the actual soundtrack on the CD format worked quite nicely, the sound mix on the blu ray is actually bogus. It detracts from the film’s larger-than-life experience.

The track has been cleaned quite nicely and we don’t hear any hisses or background noise as is problematic with older films. However, it would seem that the new 6.1 Dolby / DTS mix would have sufficed, but Shemaroo presents this Blu Ray with a Dolby True HD 5.1 track. This becomes problematic when the track had already been digitised at the re-conversion stage, why author an HD mix if it didn’t exist in the ‘new master’.

The Raag Darbari Tarana (Just before the ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna song) sequence was utterly destroyed when they made this 5.1. The pakhawaj is dimmed out completely. There is also a strange reverb around the spoken dialogue, which gives the film a ghostly sound. The track is good in parts, but they should have maintained the new 6.1 mix without any enhancements.

Two songs remain cut – ‘Hamein Kaash Tumse Mohabbat Na Hote’ & ‘ Aye Ishq Yeh Sab’. Song menu doesn’t include shortcuts to the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan songs.

The soundtrack was also re-released and it actually held up quite nicely with the enhancements acting as a complement to the original soundtrack. This was released in November 2004 by Saregama.

Special Features:

There are 5 featurettes on the second disc (DVD) in mostly Hindi with no subtitles. They are presented in 720p.

• Grand PremierThis piece films the opening night of the re-release coloured version at Eros theaters on the 12 November 2004. It also showcases the speeches that were made before the movie with Dilip Kumar in attendance. The excerpt is 38 minutes long.

• Stars SpeakIn this interview there are about 15 stars, singers and original distributors and technicians that talk about what Mughal-E-Azam meant to the film fraternity and its encompassing effect on the world. It comes in at run time at 25 minutes.

• Colourisation ProcessPresented here is a short film produced on the technical details that were undertaken to have restore the original negatives, produce a 2k scan of the film and then how the colourisation took place, with short demos on how the process was completed. This feature comes in at 18 minutes

• Theatrical TrailerThe Trailer that was created for the colour release of Mughal-E-Azam

• Deleted SongIncluded here is the coloured version – Hamen Kash Tumse Mohabbat Na Ho

It would have been great to have gotten the full movie with the Black & White version remastered in HD with all it’s original aspects. But the sentiments with the most Indian Authoring companies are that they are catering for a newer audience that wouldn’t fathom the older technical aspects. I find this strange especially when western companies have put out Satyajit Ray’s films restored to their glorious original aspects; and they have sold quite well.

Rating

Film:  / 
PQ:  / 
AQ:  / 

Blu Ray region Coding details:

Region AEast Asia (except Mainland China and Mongolia), Southeast Asia, North America, South America and their dependencies.
Region BAfrica, Southwest Asia, Europe (except Russia and Kazakhstan), Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) and their dependencies.
Region CCentral Asia, East Asia (Mainland China and Mongolia only), South Asia, central Eurasia and their dependencies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s