Love story Prem Nazir and K R Vijaya in the film, Anarkali
Produced and directed by M. Kunchacko under the banner of X L Productions, ‘Anarkali' was the Malayalam version of the much filmed 16th century Mughal romance of Prince Salim and his love for the slave girl Anarkali.
This story was made as a silent movie in 1928 under the title ‘Loves of a Mughal Prince'. Directed by the legendary Bengali actor and director Charu Roy, jointly with Prafulla Roy, the film was a box office hit. The same year R. S. Choudhary came up with another silent version of the love story ‘Anarkali' or ‘Monument of Tears.' In 1935 R. S. Choudhary came up with a talkie ‘Anarkali' (Hindi) with the glamour girl of the time Ruby Myers (screen name Sulochana) in the female lead.
In 1953 Filmstan produced the Hindi film ‘Anarkali,' directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal with Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai in the lead roles. This version became a model for the future versions of the love story in various languages. Music composed by C. Ramachandra was excellent and the film created new records. The first South Indian language version ‘Anarkali' was made in 1955 simultaneously in Telugu and Tamil by Vedantam Raghaviah. With the romantic pair Nageswara Rao and Anjali Devi in the lead roles, the film was a musical hit with some beautiful music score by Adi Narayana Rao.
‘Mughal E Azam' (1960), the classic, mega budget Hindi film produced and directed by K. Asif is considered as the best film version of this immortal love story. The artists who performed the main characters immortalised the historical personalities, Prithviraj Kapoor as Emperor Akbar, Dilip Kumar as Prince Salim, Madhubala as Anarkali and Durga Khote as Empress Jodha Bai.
This film was originally produced in black and white with a few dance sequences in colour. The music composed by Naushad is widely considered to be his best.
A blend of history and imagination, the majestic love story was first retold in literature by the renowned Urdu writer Imtiaz Ali Taj in his play ‘Anarkali' (1922). This successful play forms the base for the screen versions.
In Malayalam, the love story was staged as musical operas in 1930s and 1940s. The musical opera ‘Anarkali' or ‘Ashrukudeeram' authored by Swami Brahmavrathan in 1926 was staged by Kairali Nadana Kala Samithi.' Legendary stage artistes like Sebastian Kunju Kunju Bhagavathar, Vaikom Vasudesvan Nair, Oachira Velukkutty etc. had acted in this. Another successful stage version of the love story authored by K. K. Velayudhan Pillai, ‘Anarkali' or ‘Bashpa Mandapam' also became very popular. The stage versions of the love story became so popular that the names of the characters were suffixed to their original names like ‘Akbar' Shankara Pillai, ‘Anarkali' Vasudev etc.
The Malayalam film ‘Anarkali' (1966) was a copy of the 1953 Hindi version produced by Filmstan. Script and dialogues were by the noted novelist Vaikom Chandrasekharan Nair. Popular stars of the time like Sathyan, Prem Nazir, Thikkurissi, Kottarakkara, K. R. Vijaya etc. handled the main roles. But they paled in comparison to the performances of the earlier Hindi and Tamil versions. The music by M. S. Baburaj was superb. The film was shot at Udaya Studios but the palaces and other sets created there failed to give the film the much-needed ‘historical touch'.
The earlier Hindi and Tamil versions were partly shot at original historical This adversely affected the quality of the Malayalam film. The impact of the stage plays and other language screen versions of the love story had not faded out of the Malayali psyche and hence the Malayalam film failed to impress.
Prince Salim (Prem Nazir), son of Akbar (Satyan) falls in love with Anarkali (K R Vijaya). Akbar forbids Salim to prolong this affair as he wanted his son to marry a Rajput princess and thereby strengthen communal harmony.
But Salim becomes blind in his love for Anarkali leading to a struggle between father and his adamant son. It also turns into a conflict between public duty and personal desire.
All the attempts of Akbar and Minister Man Singh (Thikkurissi) to separate the lovers fail. Salim and Anarkali are irresistibly drawn towards each other and are soon deeply in love. Salim even leads a campaign against his father. In the ensuing war Salim is defeated and sentenced to death. Empress Jodha Bai (Ambika) begs to her husband Akbar for the life of her son. But the dutiful emperor does not accede to her request. Anarkali is sentenced to be buried alive. Salim escapes from the jail and rushes to save Anarkali from the punishment. But before he reaches the burial ground, Anarkali's punishment is executed.
The storyline of the various versions of the classic love story had variations, particularly the climax. In most of the screen versions Anarkali succumbs to death, being buried alive. But in K. Asif's ‘Mughal E Azam', the slave girl is saved by Akbar unknown to the world. In N. T. Rama Rao's Telugu version, both the lovers are forgiven by the emperor. In the Malayalam film, the usual ending of the story is adapted.
The needless comic sub-plot that was totally disconnected with the main theme and diluted the poignancy of the emotional love story. Adoor Bhasi, S. P. Pillai, Alummoodan and others created a show that was similar to what they had done in other films earlier.
Playback singer K. J. Yesudas acted in a minor role, as the legendary singer Tansen. Music director L. P. R. Varma also did a role in the film. Interestingly P. B. Sreenivas sang for Yesudas in a song sequence, probably the only instance where another singer has sung for him in a film.
The 10 songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma were tuned by Baburaj. The songs had an Hindustani flavour. Most of the songs became instant hits. The romantic duet ‘Nadikalil sundari Yamuna...' (Yesudas- B. Vasantha) is noted for the new style, where the female voice only hums in accompaniment. The haunting solo ‘Ezhu chirakulla theru....' (P. Susheela), the classical-based number ‘Sapta swara sudha sagarame...' (P. B. Sreenivas-M. Balamuralikrishna), ‘Maadhalappoove maadhalappoove...' (Susheela), ‘Chakravarthikumara nin premasamrajyam....' (L. R. Easwari), ‘Pranayaganam paaduvaanai...' (Susheela) were the other hits from the film.
Will be remembered: For the excellent music and some memorable songs.