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Mughal-e-Azam works on DVD too

Raja Sen | July 14, 2005 13:23 IST

Mughal-e-AzamMughal-e-Azam is as classic a film as they come, and its colour incarnation is no different.

Rejuvenated painstakingly with a bright, rich palette, K Asif's classic film can now be seen in a special two-disc collector's edition. The first disc, that of the movie itself, is digitally remastered, complete with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and a host of subtitle options. The second disc is full of what DVD aficionados really drool over -- the extras.

The digital remastering is excellent. Watching this film in theatres is an awesome experience; but up close, with pristine digital clarity, the colours come alive, and -- to paraphrase the big bad wolf -- it's all the better to see Madhubala with. The vivid colours and the film's scale stand out even on the small screen, and the grandeur makes this a definite must-watch.

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The film's subtitles -- English, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali -- allow us lowly mortals not completely at ease with the royal Urdu used so poetically in the film to grasp the meaning of divine-sounding epithets we otherwise gloss over.

But this is a point of discontent: the English lines are disappointingly basic, and one wonders if a non-Hindi speaker would ever be able to completely grasp the nuances of this delicately worded screenplay. There are grammatical and spelling errors, but the lack of finesse in the wording jars when Prithviraj Kapoor delivers a long, stirring soliloquy, the English version considerably lacking eloquence and articulacy.

Mughal-e-AzamBut we nitpick. The first disc, the film itself, is sans dubbed alternate language soundtracks, something that -- if done very well -- could be a great idea for a film like this. A commentary track would also have been a superb addition, but we understand the dilemma the creators of the disc faced: the fact that almost all the people working on the mega production have passed away. Still, a commentary track by a good film critic or historian, in addition to legendary music director Naushad, would have been incredible.

The second disc, with the extras, is a bit of a disappointment. There is footage of the Grand Premiere, from the 2004 unveiling of the colour Mughal-e-Azam, the world's first theatrical release for a colourised film. This has the celebrities walking in, from Aishwarya Rai and Sridevi to Dilip Kumar himself. But the film's soundtrack plays instead of comments from the guests. Slipshod camerawork further makes this a rather avoidable extra.

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There is a not-so-little featurette, Stars Speak, where Bollywood personalities -- Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shashi, Kareena Kapoor et al -- talk about their feelings about the great epic. Aside from a couple of insights from Raza Murad and Amin Sayani, these are largely a predictable selection of standard soundbytes, not contributing much to our knowledge of the classic. Then again, it does show the incredible Urdu scroll which was the invitation card for the film's premiere. Wow.

There is an interesting 'How It Happened' documentary on the colourisation process, and this starts by focusing on the dynamic life of K Asif. This is a rather interesting watch for all those interested in the technical aspects of the film, and quite compelling in terms of content. While on the subject of extras, it's curious to note that selecting each featurette takes you to an intro screen for the same, which bewilderingly stays static for over 30 seconds. Thank God for the forward button.

Mughal-e-AzamThe extras disc concludes with the theatrical trailer, but this is disappointingly the version released for the new film. An old promotion for the original would have been invaluable, but did they even have trailers back then in 1960?

The cover proudly proclaims the presence of Humhe Kaash Tumse, a deleted song, but I haven't yet been able to unearth this gem.

Overall, it's a good effort. The film does look superb in this new avatar, and the sound is great. The extras might not be things you actually want to sit through entirely, but they can make a half-hearted, quickly skipped-over half hour of decent viewing.

The lack of a commentary track is a glaring omission in a DVD set that surely deserves one. Also, it would have been fantastic to have a remastered version of the old classic in black and white as well, allowing viewers to flit back and forth between the original and the painted worlds. But these seem digital video dreams.

A fine collection to any movie library.

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Number of User Comments: 1

Sub: More info please

- Is this DVD made from the digital 2K master/HD or telecined from a colorised print? The former is much preferable - Correct aspect ratio ...

Posted by M. Hafner


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