Taj Mahal (1963)

I ended up re-watching this film in a roundabout sort of way, which is a story in itself. A few months back, my sister (a historian, whose PhD was on 19th century Delhi) remarked, “I’d like to watch Lal Qila. I’ve never been able to find it in stores.” So, good little sister that I am (and a shameless opportunist), I figured out at least one of the things I’d gift my sister for Christmas.
Before gift-wrapping the VCD, I decided to watch Lal Qila, and write up a review right after. The latter didn’t happen – because Lal Qila is so badly written, so badly directed, and such a crashing bore, I couldn’t make head or tail of it most of the time. Only Rafi’s superb renditions of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s poetry – especially Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon – are a saving grace.

I was so peeved and disappointed after Lal Qila, that I needed this to buoy myself up. In any case, I told myself: logically, the two films are related (other than the fact that both feature Helen): the Lal Qila and the Taj Mahal were both built by Shahjahan.
Here we go, then. One of Hindi cinema’s better historicals, with a stellar cast and very good music.


The Taj Mahal story begins in the Agra Fort, at the fortnightly Meena Bazaar, where the ladies of the fort put up a temporary bazaar where they sell trinkets, cloth, dolls, and other pretty little things. Not only are the shopkeepers at the Meena Bazaar women; so are the buyers – for the only men allowed are the Emperor and the princes.
Prince Khurram (Pradeep Kumar) has graced this Meena Bazaar with his presence, and Laadli Bano (Jabeen Jaleel), the daughter of Khurram’s stepmother, Noorjehan, is trying her best to lure him with her charms.


Khurram, though he’s civil to Laadli, is not impressed. But, a short while later, as he’s reaching to have a closer look at a necklace being displayed by the court dancer Gulbadan (Minoo Mumtaz), he comes face to face with a beauty whom he’s never seen before – and whom he’s smitten by, at first glance.


The girl (Bina Rai) hurries away in confusion, and Khurram has to turn to Gulbadan to find out who she is. Gulbadan enlightens him: that was Arjumand Bano, daughter of the Wazir, Asif Khan – who is Noorjehan’s brother. Small world, indeed.


Fortunately for Khurram, Gulbadan is more than willing to help him in his courting of Arjumand Bano. On Khurram’s instructions, Gulbadan delivers a necklace to Arjumand – which Arjumand promptly refuses, but in a way that convinces Gulbadan (as she later reports to Khurram) that Arjumand’s heart doesn’t refuse.
Which, of course, emboldens Khurram to try again. This time, he sends Arjumand a carrier pigeon.


… and thus begins their romance. They exchange a couple of love notes, and then start to meet, every evening, in a baradari (literally, a ‘pavilion with twelve doorways’) beside the Yamuna. Here, they finally pledge undying love to each other. Arjumand tells Khurram how beautiful this riverbank is, how wonderful the view – and how magnificent a palace here would look.
Finally, she makes him vow that when she dies, he will lay her to rest here, in a mausoleum that will stand as a memorial to their love.


Before it starts getting too cheesy for words, however, reality kicks in, in the form of Noorjehan (Veena, in one of her most imperious roles ever).
Noorjehan, born Mehrunissa, was a widow with a baby daughter, Laadli Bano, when Khurram’s father, now the Emperor Jehangir (Rehman) fell in love with her. Now, by dint of her own ambition and intellect, Noorjehan has become a powerful personage. Jehangir loves and trusts her immensely, and even heeds her advice on matters of state.


Noorjehan knows very well that of his sons, Jehangir loves Khurram best of all. The other son, Shahryar (Jeevan) is completely degenerate, and spends all his time in wine, woman, song, and the company of his equally dissolute cronies.


So Noorjehan has decided that Khurram – whom Jehangir is certain to announce his heir – will be a good match for her own daughter Laadli Bano. Laadli, as we already know from that opening scene at the Meena Bazaar, is quite keen on Khurram anyway.
At this point, the dancer Gulbadan – who till now had been helping Khurram and Arjumand in their romance – does an inexplicable about-turn. She goes and sneaks to Laadli Bano about how Arjumand is being courted by Khurram…


… and Noorjehan, who arrives during the conversation, decides to take matters into her own hands. After all, if Laadli Bano marries Khurram, and Khurram becomes (as he certainly will) the Emperor, Laadli Bano will be Empress and her mother will be able to keep a hold on her current position of power.


She approaches Jehangir with the suggestion of a match between Laadli and Khurram, but Jehangir, while he agrees to the idea, says that the decision rests with Khurram.

Noorjehan, though she does not say it, is obviously put off by this wishy-washy attitude. So she sets out to do what she can: by visiting her brother Asif Khan, and his daughter Arjumand. They are surprised to see her – Noorjehan has not exactly been a frequent visitor since her elevation to Mallika-e-Alam.


And the Empress has another surprise in store: she has come to fetch her beloved niece to stay as a guest in the imperial palace. Arjumand is taken aback, but pleased too: she will now be closer to Khurram, more able to meet him!
She hasn’t reckoned with her aunt, though; Noorjehan has only brought Arjumand to the imperial harem so that she can be better watched. On the first day that Arjumand tries to step out to go meet Khurram, she finds her way barred by guards:


If Noorjehan is a tough cookie, so is her niece. Arjumand makes her way to Khurram, and even gatecrashes Laadli Bano’s birthday mushaaira, where she proceeds to announce her defiance loud and clear.


All of this gets Noorjehan nervous, and she ends up seeking an alliance with Shahryar. The conversation is in very cloaked, careful words, so it’s never quite clear exactly what Noorjehan wants of Shahryar, or what she’s promising him in return. But one thing’s obvious: these two are up to no good.


Noorjehan finds an opportunity to put her plan into action when unrest breaks out in the Deccan and Jehangir is forced to send the Mughal armies on a campaign down in the peninsula. Jehangir intends to lead his armies himself, but Noorjehan intervenes, suggesting that this would make the Mughal empire seem weak – that it has no good general other than the Baadshah! Khurram should be sent instead; he’s a great warrior.
Jehangir is all agreement. Of course – there is none braver than Khurram! (And we realise what Noorjehan’s plan is: Khurram will almost certainly die in battle, and then Shahryar will be the heir to the throne – and Laadli will be married to him).


So Khurram leads his troops into the Deccan and is gone on a long, bloody campaign of a year and a half.
But return he does, and a lot of things happen all at once. Jehangir, very proud of his son, announces that Khurram will henceforth be known as Shahjahan, and that he will sit on a throne alongside his father.


At a song-and-dance to celebrate Khurram/Shahjahan’s triumphant homecoming, Khurram receives a desperate note purporting to be from Arjumand, begging him to come to her aid immediately. He can’t interrupt the proceedings, so Khurram slips away by himself – only to end up being attacked by a gang of Shahryar’s men who had used the forged note as a ploy to ambush Khurram. Fortunately for Khurram, they run off without checking if he’s dead, and Arjumand – who’s been feeling uneasy (Ah! True love!), arrives in time to smuggle him away into the taikhana (basement) of her father’s mansion, where he can be treated in peace.


… which means that Khurram misses out on the fact that:
(a) Jehangir suffered some sort of illness (a heart attack, possibly?) at the function,
(b) has been laid up in bed ever since, and
(c) is huffy that while all his other offspring have been to ask about his health, his favourite son hasn’t bothered.
Huffy, in fact, to the point that he decrees that if Khurram does not present himself at Jehangir’s bedside by the following evening, he will declared a traitor and a rebel.


Shahryar’s spies have conveyed to him the news that Khurram is at Asif Khan’s house. So, to prevent Khurram turning up at the imperial chambers, Shahryar posts his men outside Asif Khan’s mansion. Arjumand, however, helps smuggle Khurram out in disguise, Khurram makes his way to Jehangir’s bedside, and reveals, to his stunned father, the still-healing wounds of the failed assassination. Khurram refrains from telling Jehangir whom he suspects, but does explain that he owes his life to Arjumand’s care.


Which is all that it takes for Jehangir to agree that Arjumand will be a fine Empress. And so Khurram and Arjumand get married.

That, though, is far from the happily-ever-after these two star-crossed lovers have hoped for. They do have their joys and their years of happiness, but there are a lot of challenges, trials and tribulations ahead as well.

What I liked about this film:

The songs (the lyrics are by Sahir Ludhianvi, the music by Roshan – easily one of his best overall scores for a film). Taj Mahal’s most outstanding feature is its fantastic score, which really puts everything else – opulent sets, good cast, fairly decent scripting – into the shade. Each song, from the brilliant qawwali Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar to the frequently-repeated Jo vaada kiya woh nibhaana padega – is a gem. So are Na-na, na re na-na, haath na lagaana and Jo baat tujh mein hain teri tasveer mein nahin. My favourite, however, is the absolutely sublime Jurm-e-ulfat pe humein log sazaa dete hain: quietly defiant lyrics which are allowed to shine forth by the subdued and beautiful music, and by Lata’s superb rendition.

I also liked the way in which the film manages to blend political (sometimes factual) events with romantic (fictitious) ones. This is one complaint I generally have with a lot of Hindi ‘historicals’: they’re historical almost completely in name only. Lal Qila is one glaring example.

What I didn’t like:

Now that I’ve praised Taj Mahal for the fact that it isn’t a completely ahistorical historical, let me clarify: it’s not got many of the facts right. There are inaccuracies, flights of fancy, utter departures from the truth. Khurram and Arjumand’s ages, for instance: they actually got married when he was 15 years old, she 14. And, as in Jahanara, here too, we have Mumtaz Mahal dying genteelly in her bed in the palace. (She actually died in a muddy tent after giving birth to Gauhar Ara, having accompanied Shahjahan on one of his campaigns).

Then there’s the other popular misconception (repeated often enough in cinema), that a certain Shirazi was the architect of the Taj Mahal. (According to historical sources, the architects were probably Ustad Ahmad Lahauri and Mir Abdul Karim, along with Makramat Khan – and possibly with contributions from Shahjahan himself, who took a deep interest in architecture).

Then there are the little details that stuck in my craw. For example, the gay abandon with which royal ladies went about in either very flimsy or non-existent veils; or the anachronistic architecture.

Plus, the last 15 minutes of the film are a little too melodramatic for my liking.

But, still. The film does manage to do justice to the very popular (though possibly over-romanticised) love story of Shahjahan, Mumtaz Mahal and the Taj Mahal. Bina Rai is beautiful, Veena is excellent as the supercilious Noorjehan (who, interestingly, does have shades of lighter grey in her character).


And a lot of the events that take place preceding Khurram’s accession to the throne are factually correct. Besides, it’s an entertaining and enjoyable enough film.

Or, you can just watch it for the music. That’s more than enough reason.

Little bit of trivia:

Here’s something odd that I noticed. One little-known song of Taj Mahal is Khuda-e-bartar teri zameen par, sung by Arjumand while Khurram is away on the Deccan campaign. Here are the lyrics, and here is the song.

Now listen to this song, Ishwar allah tere jahaan mein, from 1947: Earth. Am I the only one who sees a startling similarity between the two songs? Not in the music, but in the lyrics – down to specific words, not even just the overall sentiment.

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130 thoughts on “Taj Mahal (1963)

  1. Echoing Ava, alas, a movie I have missed. Though I have heard all the songs *including* Khuda-e-bartar teri zameen par. Weren’t they sublime? And yes, I absolutely love Jurm-e-ulfat pe, as defiant as Pyar kiya to darna kya but in a quieter, understated manner.

    I’m surprised they got some facts right! Historicals of the time usually meant making merry with the story (never let facts get in the way of a good story!) and setting it in opulent surroundings. Another film on my ever-lengthening ‘to-watch’ list!

    As for its similarity to the later song (and it’s definitely there) maybe Javed Akhtar was channelling Sahir? ;)

    • You’re so right about historicals of the time usually making merry with the story. I’ve seen loads of them – all the way from Shahjehan to Halaku, Jahanara, Anarkali, Changez Khan and God knows what else – and very few of them bear any resemblance to what actually happened. I think the problem lies with the fact that they concentrated on making movies on subjects that were already well-known and popular with Indian audiences… therefore subjects on which Indian folklore already had a store of (mostly wildly inaccurate) stories. And, of course, those stories ended up being a part of the movie. All too often, the stories seem to be all that the movie’s made up of.

      Give me a Kohinoor, I say! I’d rather a film that doesn’t claim to be a historical, but is really good, solid entertainment. :-)

      Ah, two more things on which I agree with you: firstly, that Javed Akhtar was possibly channelling Sahir. ;-) And, second, that Jurm-e-ulfat pe is a more understated equivalent of Pyaar kiya toh darna kya. While I like Pyaar kiya toh darna kya a lot, I prefer Jurm-e-ulfat pe. That is one of those songs that never fails to give me gooseflesh… I simply adore it.

  2. Thanks for another great review. I bought this film just for chandi ka badan and really enjoyed it – unaware that it was ANOTHER Sahir film. The music really is a delight, and it’s good to learn that it got at least some of the history right. Also, it was fascinating to see the clear similarity between Khuda-e-bartar teri zameen par and Ishwar Allah tere jahaan mein. I agree with Anu that it was probably a deliberate channelling or homage – the theme of the film fits with that idea. Of course, I could be biased, since 1947:Earth is one of my alltime favourite Hindi films, the one that introduced me to the actress who still has 1st place in my filmi heart. :)

    • 1947: Earth happens to be one of my favourite ‘newer’ Hindi films too, Stuart. My mum – who was in Amritsar at the time of Partition – had told me a lot of her recollections of what things were like then, so the movie hit me harder than it might have, otherwise.

      I fell in love with the music of Taj Mahal back when I was just into my teens – we’d bought an audio cassette of its songs (a cassette, by the way, which didn’t include either Khuda-e-bartar or Husn se hai duniya haseen, which is why I never remember these songs). That cassette still sits in my cupboard, though we’ve moved on to MP3s and whatnot… awesome music.

  3. Compliments of the season Dusted Off, now if only another dvd company could release this movie again, the dull blueish picture tint on the Tseries copy and in fact almost of all their dvds is annoying. And in yet another bit of trivia this hip hop song below is said to have sampled the vocals of one of the songs from this film but I still can’t work out which one, I hope you can help

    • And compliments of the season to you, bollywooddeewana!

      Yes, the awful tint (in my copy, it changes from one scene to the next – more red in parts, more blue in others, even green in some) needs fixing. I have a feeling there’s something wrong with the original print that all these DVD companies possess, because I saw a couple of songs from an Indus version, which seems to have the same problem.

      Thank you for that odd bit of trivia! I’ve never come across that hip hop song before, so it was a surprise to hear a Taj Mahal song there. By the way, the song they’ve used is the qawwali, Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar – the first bit you can hear in the Honey song is from the section where Asha sings “Kisi ko khudkushi ka…, towards the end of the qawwali. It’s at about 07:30 in this video:

        • Any time, bollywooddeewana – and thank you for giving me that little bit of trivia. I hadn’t known about it.

          Slightly off-topic (but still related, since it shows just how far-reaching old Hindi music is!)… I guess you’ve seen this?

          • yes I have in this and Jaan pehchaan ho is one bollywod song that seems to have a huge cult following here in the West i think, I’ve noticed this even before i rediscovered bollywood in a big way. It was used in the opening credits of the 2001 movie Ghost world, I’m sure you know this already but if not, here’s the clip below

            • I was discussing this with Tom (Daniel) a couple of months back, and was of the opinion that the Heineken ad was probably inspired by the Ghost World credits, rather than from Gumnaam – though of course it’s likely that the Heineken ad agency went all the way back to Gumnaam to learn more.

  4. I saw it ages ago on DD and can’t remember anything except for the songs.
    Great review once again, Madhu!
    Thanks for the historic facts. One knows so little about such things. Good historicals are so rare in Hindi cinema.
    We could do with more of them.

    • I saw it ages ago on DD too, harvey! I was watching it again after all these years, and had forgotten everything about it except for the songs. But yes, it was a pleasant surprise to find that they actually managed to get a fair amount of the historicity right – down to where Khurram went with Arjumand and their children to escape from Jehangir’s anger… and who was sent by Jehangir to issue an ultimatum. It’s also a coincidence that only a few months back, I visited very palace in which Khurram and Arjumand stayed!

      Oh, yes. We could certainly do with more historicals that are actually historicals.

  5. Hadn’t you mentioned khudaye bartar teri zami par in one of your list? Which was it? I love this song! One of the rarer songs in hindi cinema which criticises war rather than glorifies it.

    • Nope, haven’t mentioned it in any list. In fact, I’d forgotten all about this song, down to its very existence. It deserves to be better-known, though – as you rightly say, one of the rare songs in Hindi cinema that criticises war (ironically enough, sung by a warrior’s beloved). Incidentally, another song that came to mind when I was watching this song was Allah tero naam, since that too is a (sort of) criticism of war.

  6. Well done DO on a fine review! to me, the movie was just about ok, but the music, aah-one of Roshan’s finest efforts. Sahir was good in producing romantic lyrics too. But as you said, “Jurm-E-Ulfat pe” is the best.If one listens carefully, the beauty is in the near absence of background music. Just sarangi interludes, highlighting the lyrical aspects. Quiet song for a mehfil.
    Did you notice “Takht Kya Cheez hai aur Laal-O-Jawahar kya hai”?
    Was it an indirect reference to Nehru and Shastri ji?

    • Well, I am a history buff, so any historical film that manages to get more of its history right rather than wrong gets a heads-up from me! But, still: I agree that the music is what really makes Taj Mahal shine. It’s simply superb. Just thinking of Jurm-e-ulfat pe humein is enough to give me gooseflesh.

      Heh. That’s an interesting idea, about Laal-o-jawahar kya hai. :-) Perhaps. But maybe Sahir was being literal? Jawahar means ‘jewel’ in Urdu, and laal is used both to mean ‘red’ as well as, more specifically, ‘ruby’.

        • I was going to reply to this yesterday, but it was too late. I would think there is more than ordinary chance that those lyrics were written the way they were, and I would hazard an educated guess that Sahir meant to refer to Nehru and Shastri. He was an ardent communist and most of his lyrics were very satirical (think of the songs of Phir Subah Hogi for instance); I can’t help but think that he was cocking a snook at the establishment with these lyrics. From what I have read of him, he must have been thrilled to use those puns. :)

        • @Karthik, Anu: Ah, well. I hadn’t thought of it, but now I’m beginning to wonder… I wish we knew for certain. On the other hand, I guess Sahir might’ve derived a good deal of joy out of knowing that he was thumbing his nose at the establishment in a way that wouldn’t let them get at him if they wanted to.

          Reminds me of Door hato ay duniyawaalon Hindustan hamaara hai, from Kismet. So obviously anti-British, but the words are all innocence – even supposedly aimed at the Axis powers. But anyone with an ounce of sense will know who is meant all along as the enemy.

  7. This film had another nice song — Paon Choo Lene Do

    I think I will stick to watching all these good songs on youtube, despite your excellent review. Pradeep Kumar never floats my boat, and I do not find Bollywood forays into Mughal history all that enticing.

    • Ah, yes. I missed listing that. Paaon chhoo lene do is a nice song too.

      Frankly, of all the Hindi film forays into Mughal history, I’d putTaj Mahal probably among the top five – but having seen rubbish like Lal Qila, I’m probably inclined to be more forgiving when a film manages to get something right.

      You don’t like Pradeep? Why? Don’t you like heroes whose lipstick rivals the heroine’s, and who need lots of facial hair so you don’t mistake them for the heroine’s sahelis? ;-)

      • At least Pradeep Kumar had the good fortune to look like a man (LOL at his lipstick rivalling the heroines’),and he fitted the ‘royal roles very well; ‘heroes’ like Biswajeet and Bharat Bhushan and their ilk were unbearable.

          • You shouldn’t be so mean to Biswajeet he was quite nice in…. hmmph… well, something…. well, he had to be good in somethign otherwise you can’t get lead roles for a whole decade!

            I like Bharat Bhushan in Baiju Bawra. And Pradeep Kumar was good in royal roles, because those royal sherwanis always hid his moobs (had to use this word somewhere after learning it at Greta’s).

            • because those royal sherwanis always hid his moobs

              LOL!! Okay, now I’ve learnt a new word too. Am going to be looking out for an opportunity to use it. ;-)

              Actually, Biswajit was quite good in his first Hindi film, Bees Saal Baad.

            • >“because those royal sherwanis always hid his moobs”
              Hahahaha.
              This is the reason why he looked good not only as a king/prince but also in muslim socials in his churidar achkan/sherwani (aren’t they the same thing?)

      • “You don’t like Pradeep? Why? Don’t you like heroes whose lipstick rivals the heroine’s, and who need lots of facial hair so you don’t mistake them for the heroine’s sahelis? ;-)”
        ROFL !!!!

      • “You don’t like Pradeep? Why? Don’t you like heroes whose lipstick rivals the heroine’s, and who need lots of facial hair so you don’t mistake them for the heroine’s sahelis? ;-)”

        ROTFL!!!!
        I thought you were talking of Biswajeet and Shammi. I know I am going to get beaten up for this, but I always found that Shammi and Biswajeet had to much make up on to give them the chikna look. ;-)
        Maybe they were on the metrosexual look bandwagon some 40 years too early.

        • I think Shammi had too much makeup on in some of the outdoor scenes of Junglee, but he was otherwise fine (how dare you call him a chikna!!! Grrrrr!! Shoo!!) But Biswajit… hmm. I agree. The one song where he really fitted in well was Kajra mohabbat waala – he really looked pretty believable in drag!

  8. Seriously intriguing. This has been been lying with me since a long time. I think I will watch it now that you so highly recommend it. :)

  9. I think the age has come for Hindi film industry to return to historical films and find a great audience. The historians of today are far more well informed than in the days of Taj Mahal – look at your sister, Madhulika!

    Brilliant story telling ability.

    • Thank you, samasti!

      Yes, I do wish the Hindi film industry would make more historical films. I actually rather liked Jodhaa Akbar, and (a different period, this) The Legend of Bhaga Singh – but those are less the norm, more the exception.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s a question of historians today being better-informed (I think that’s more a question of individual historians, whether or not they’re sufficiently interested in their subject to make the effort to do research…). I think, at least as far as how Taj Mahal compares to a historical made today, that it’s really all about how much the film-maker is willing to invest in making the film historically accurate. Perhaps back then most film-makers didn’t really bother to consult a historian to get the facts right. Now, they might. Who knows?

      It may be an interesting exercise to compare this version to the 2005 verson, Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story. I haven’t seen that, but if anybody has seen both versions, I’d love to know if the later version is more historically accurate.

  10. I had watched it long ago on DD and surprisingly I dont remember a single thing about it. And though I find Bina Rai very beautiful, I’ve never been a big fan of Pradip Kumar. So never felt like watching it again.
    And yes, the songs are just out of this world!

    • I’m not a Pradeep Kumar fan, either… but he’s bearable in this, probably because he’s rather more diluted than his usual ‘hero’ role. Other people – Bina Rai, Veena, Rehman, Jeevan – share a good bit of screen space, so you’re not pelted with nonstop Pradeep. ;-)

  11. Great review, I haven’t seen the film since DD days, but have very pleasant memories, even Pardeep Kumar is tolerable :). Songs of course, are ever present. I agree with you about the ghazal: very very good!

    Wish they would make more accurate historical movies in Hindi, it is very annoying to keep repeating and amplifying the same myths. We have such a lot of history, it could keep bollywood busy for ages!!!

    • Thank you, bawa! Yes, I thought Pradeep Kumar was tolerable here – as he was in Anarkali. I think that ‘Mughaliya’ look suited him.

      I’ve been asked frequently how come we don’t see too many historical fiction books set in India, and I’ve always had to admit that I don’t know the answer. It’s odd, because we do have such a vast historical landscape to draw from, so many episodes that would fit perfectly into a book (or a movie), and all we do is go on rehashing the same old stuff… sad.

  12. Love this film and the songs. Historical facts may interfere with the entertainment quotient of the film – at least that’s the only reason I’ve come up with.
    Ashutosh was smart. He had a story which one can only imagine (Jodha Akabr), though I read that he did keep certain facts in mind, even the elephant fighting.
    My DVD has the same green, pink blue hues :-(

    I know and love the song Khuda-e- bartar :-)
    I see a great similarity of word and lyric here with the Earth song. Probably Javed Aktar was as aware as you about the unfamiliarity of it. He didn’t count on some old film buffs here :-D

    Pradeep Kumar always looked good as a royal, and I don’t mind him in his black and white films.

    It was great reading the review of a film of this genre.

    • I absolutely agree about Ashutosh Gowarikar having been smart and used as his subject only a story that could have been guessed at. but yes, you’re right about some of the incidents – for example, the fact that Akbar was taming an elephant when Jodhaa’s father first met him. Or that gruesome episode of Adham Khan bursting into the harem with a drawn sword, and Akbar overpowering him and having him thrown repeatedly from the ramparts until he was dead… both are true.

      I think Pradeep Kumar looked fine in historicals (that look, with the beard and all, suited him). He’s okay in some black-and-white films, like Jaagte Raho (granted, not a big role) and Aarti, but he looks pretty weird in others, like Detective. Rather too well-fleshed below the waist to be able to carry off shirt and pants! ;-)

  13. I love this film too, love Pradeep and Bina Rai’s chemistry, love the Purdah Lite outfits, and the songs…my God the songs. I could listen to them all day. I hear them everywhere (especially Jo Vaada Kiya) when I’m in India too :)

  14. Just as you have this ‘what I did not like’ section I too have a what I do not like section when it comes to Hindi films – I find it difficult to sit through films based in the Mughal period mainly due to the high flown Urdu which usually goes over my head and when this high flown Urdu film has Pradeep Kumar in it, then it is a definite No No for me I never did like Pradeep Kumar.
    Yes but I do like the songs which reminds me whenever dad heard the song ‘Jo vaada kya—‘ he would grin mischievously and say “now Shahjehan is in trouble– vaada karke phas gaya bechara”. This memory does not fail to bring a smile to my lips.

    • Oh, Shilpi – I do SO love that comment of your father’s! Brilliant. :-)

      With me, Mughal historicals like this appeal to a large extent because of the Urdu – I understand a good deal of it, and have always thought Urdu to be one of the most mellifluous languages there is.

  15. Roshan gave some of the best melodies of the hindi film music. But I just don’t understand why people love jo vaada kiya wo nibhana padega. Maybe I just don’t like it,because I hate when people pressurise me to do something. ;-)
    Now, after this comment coupled with the Shammi one above, I am the ultimate outcaste! ;-)

  16. Interesting, your note on the architects of the Taj. My Iranian pals are convinced that it was one of their countrymen who built it (and was then blinded for his troubles, or some such.) Meanwhile, thanks for keeping up such an entertaining and informative blog. And here’s wishing you a superb 2012.

    Off topic – a cryptic film quiz, if you like.

    • There’s a lot of stuff floating about in folklore about the architect(s) being blinded or the workmen having their hands cut off, just so that the Taj Mahal would not be replicated, but it’s all just bilge. Really. As for the architect(s) being Persian, well, Lahauri & Co. might very well have originally been from Persia – there were a lot of Persians in the upper echelons of Mughal society at the time, so it could have happened.

      Whew – your cryptic film quiz is tough! I’ve not spent much time going through all of it, or even thinking about it much, but I have figured out the answers to 3 (just three!! Yikes) of the questions.

      Have a fabulous 2012, and thanks for stopping by here.

  17. An excellent piece- you are the best person to comment on the inaccuracies on the historical aspect seeing that you have authored books set in the same era as this movie! Taj Mahal was already in my watch list- though was late in the stack- will try to watch it sooner now :)

    • Thank you, Piyush! Glad you liked the review.

      One reason I like watching historicals is that I’m very interested in history, but there’s a flip side to it as well – because, especially when I’m watching films set in a time period that I’m somewhat familiar with (like this!), I end up being distracted by small details that I probably wouldn’t even have noticed otherwise. Sometimes I think I might be more fair to the rest of the movie – the scripting, the acting, the direction, etc – if I didn’t nitpick about the historicity! ;-)

  18. @Pacifist, Anu, re: Raj Kapoor (my comment is here because WordPress has decided that thread has gone on far too long!)… well, there you go! Lots of Raj Kapoor fans. No accounting for tastes, huh? ;-D

    Now I wonder how much of a fellow-fan-following I could drum up if I said I actually really like Manoj Kumar in many of his non-patriotic roles.

    • *hand raised*
      I AM!!!
      But I don’t count, I think. I like Rajender Kumar too :-D, and also like Biswajeet, Bharat Bhushan, Pradeep Kumar in some films, while not minding them in others. LOL!

      • I liked Manoj Kumar in his patriotic roles when he was not beating me over the head with how much better India is – I liked him a lot in Shaheed; I hated him in Purab aur Paschim. :)

        In his non-patriotic roles? Yeah, well, some times. *Said with reservations!*

        • Agree completely, Anu. I liked him in Shaheed too (though I didn’t like the film, overall, much), but I hate Purab aur Pachhim with a vengeance. Awful film, and he’s at his jingoistic worst in it.

          The non-patriotic roles I was thinking of were mostly the suspense ones, like in Woh Kaun Thi, Anita, Gumnaam and Saajan, plus some of the early romances he acted in – Shaadi and Nakli Nawab, especially. Not stuff like Do Badan or Shor, both of which I found too depressing for words. And Manoj Kumar goes totally OTT in depressing mode.

      • @pacifist: Whew. Thank goodness! And you do count.

        Actually, come to think of it, there’s nobody from among the leading men of the 50s and 60s whom I haven’t liked in any film. Pradeep Kumar was fine in historicals like Taj Mahal or Anarkali; Biswajit was fine in Bees Saal Baad; Rajendra Kumar was good in Mere Mehboob… and yes, Raj Kapoor, no matter how much I may denigrate him otherwise, was fabulous in Teesri Kasam and very good in Jaagte Raho, Shree 420 and Chori Chori.

    • Let me put it this way, I don’t hate him in his non-patriotic roles. But if I had to say who annoys me most, then it would be Manoj in ‘patriotic’ roles and of course Raj in Chaplinesque mode. All other actors I can tolerate.

  19. Coming a bit late to the thread here, but I want to say I saw this movie for the first time only about a year ago. I liked it quite a lot. The songs are clearly the biggest thing about the movie – Roshan has excelled himself here.

    I remember reading, when I was still in high school, that “jo vaada” changed the rules of the game for Binaca Geet Mala. Apparently till then, a song used to be played in BGM every week as long as it was still amongst the topmost N (usually 16, I think) popular songs as measured by BGM. There was no limit on how long it could keep being played on BGM.

    But then “jo vaada” came along and absolutely refused to go off the charts. It used to be played week after week until BGM decided that they needed to introduce a new rule about max no. of weeks that a song could be on the programme. That was the only way they could get this song off the programme.

    Ok, I read this a long time ago, I don’t remember the source (could have been Raju Bharatan in Illustrated Weekly). It may also be a completely wrong piece of news, so would be good if somebody could confirm the truth (or otherwise) of this.

    Another thing I read about this song (and I think this was Raju Bharatan in the Illustrated Weekly) is that this was one of the first songs that Rafi and Lata sang together after their “misunderstanding” and it turned out to be such a runaway hit.
    Again, it would be good if somebody could confirm this. I read this sometime in the 1970s!

    I like jurm-e-ulfat a lot too though, being a Rafi saab fan, I tilt more towards “jo baat tujh mein hai” or even the duet “paon chhoo lene do”. In any case, all these songs have lovely lyrics by Sahir. Love the qawwali too – but then I love practically all qawwalis, there’s something about this form of song. :-)

    • Raja, good to welcome you back here – and thank you for the greetings, too! I hope you have a wonderful year ahead. :-)

      Two interesting bits of trivia, that – and wow, you do have quite a memory, to be able to remember stuff you read back in the 70s! I especially like that bit about how Binaca Geetmala had to change the rules of the game because of Jo vaada kiya. Delightful!

      I love qawwalis too. I wish they were still popular in Hindi cinema. I think they more or less died out after the 70s (mention ‘qawwali’ to my husband, and his immediate reaction is “Rishi Kapoor?”).

  20. Wish you and your near and dear ones a happy, fun-filled, healthy 2012, Madhu. Hopefully this blog will continue to be one of our favourite addas (haunts) to discuss old movies, songs, actors and miscellaneous stuff.

  21. Only such a good samarita like DustedOff would be so kind enough to praise a movie like Taj Mahal. It was watchable because of songs, and songs only.
    This not a complaint, because more of films of that period would fall in that category.

    • I am certainly not a good Samaritan! But when you’ve watched such a lot of old films, and find so many films that have neither good stories nor good acting nor good music, you tend to appreciate films that get something right. And, as I mention, Taj Mahal does manage to tick some of those boxes. The acting is good (especially Veena and Rehman), and the story is mostly fairly engrossing. Have you seen Lal Qila? Or Changez Khan, Shahjehan or Humayun? When you’ve seen ‘historicals’ like that, which are wildly ahistorical and badly scripted, you can see the difference between those and this.

      I’m not being generous, believe me. I can be really cutting when it comes to films that are bad, but this wasn’t.

  22. @Ashok MVaishnav
    >It was watchable because of songs, and songs only.
    This not a complaint, because more of films of that period would fall in that category.

    On the one hand yes, on the other (especially in my case) it’s an acquired taste (like for wine) and I begin to see more than just songs in them.

    • it’s an acquired taste (like for wine) and I begin to see more than just songs in them.

      I agree totally with you on that, pacifist! I certainly know that I have ‘matured’ when it comes to film-watching, from what I was even five years back. It takes time to begin to appreciate some of the less obvious things in films, and to (conversely) realise that even the best of films can have big flaws.

  23. Raja ji and Dusted off ji,

    I have read above comments and I feel there is some confusion about the periods of Lata-Rafi rift and their resumption of singing together.
    For this,we will have to go back a little to know,what-probably-happened in that period.Lata’s confessions,Rafi’s intervies and Raju Bharatan’s statement in the book on Lata Mangeshkar,tell us that unlike what many people think,Lata-Rafi dispute was not on account of Lata’s entry in Guiness Book of World Records(GBWR),but on the issue of Royalty to singers.
    Somewhere in 1963 or so,HMV used to give 10% Royalty on Music to Producers.Lata’s contention was that 5% should go to Music Director and 5% should be given to the singer.Lata wanted Rafi to join her on this issue,but Rafi refused.His take was that once the singer gets paid for his song,his connection with that music ends.”We do not create the music,we only lend our voice.If that is paid,matter is closed.”
    In late 50s and early 60s,Lata used to get Rs.500 per song,whereas Rafi got 0nly 100.But,Rafi was happy,because her position was on top.By 1965,Rafi also came on top,on her level and he demanded and got what Lata used to get,i.e. Rs.5000 per song.That is why Lata wanted Rafi to join her crusade.
    Slowly and steadily from 1965 their songs became less and when Lata decided(she says Rafi stopped first) not to sing with Rafi,it was well into 1965.
    However,both were losers in this non-cooperation.Suman Kalyanpur got many prize songs and became Rafi’s duet partner,taking full advantage of the situation.At the same time in 1969,Rafi was dethroned by Kishore kumar who became singing partner of Lata.

    Anyway,the point is Taj Mahal was a 1963 film and this certainly was NOT the first song after their re-union.Infact we can find some of their duets even in 1964,but quite less.

    The second(actually the first,as per Raja ji’s comments) point about the removal of the song-jo vaada kiya-from Binaca Geetmala is absolutely correct.In fact when the song continued endlessly on the music show,it was the ‘Music Directors’ Associacion’s suggestion about changing the rules as to how long a song can get played in the music show.
    Thank you,
    -Arunkumar Deshmukh

  24. Thanks very much, Arunji, for sorting this out. I knew I could always trust you to give us the correct picture. :-)
    So it was indeed “jo vaada” which got the rules of Binaca Geetmala changed? That’s quite an achievement! I know it was a #1 song in its year but to be playing non-stop for SO long that it forces a rule-change is quite something! Maybe something’s wrong with my taste but I don’t see anything THAT special in this song (though it is a good enough song, no doubt!).

    As for the Rafi-Lata story, that’s been cleared too by you. One question now: Could it be that “dil pukaare, aa re aa re, aa re” from Jewel Thief (1967) was their reconciliation song? I think I may have read about that in an article by Raju Bharatan in the Illustrated Weekly?

  25. Raja ji,

    The high point of Lata-Rafi dispute,from where it took an opening in public was when they were recording’ Tasveer teri dil mein ‘ from film Maya-1961.Lata argued with Rafi over few words of the song.Rafi felt belittled when even Salil Chaudhary supported Lata.
    This was only the begining of the problem.
    Anyway,it is generally believed that on the insistance of S.D.Burman,these two giants reconciled,but the real story is different.
    It was Shankar Jaikishen and Nargis who tried to bring them together.Nargis called them home for Dinner.There both Rafi and Lata became very emotional and were almost in tears.Afterall,they had moved along almost together in singing field with many sweet memories.
    Anyway,after their non-singing period,the first duet they sang was-
    “Tum bin sajan barase naina” from film Gaban-1966,under music direction of Shankar-Jaikishen.

    -Arunkumar Deshmukh

    • That is new for me. Thank you for the info.
      Do you know by any chance which was their last song before the dispute? I am asking this because you say that tasveer teri dil mein was only the beginning, so I presume they worked together after this song as well.

    • The dispute between Lata and Rafi was definitely due to the royalty issue, but the Tasveer tere dil mein song issue did not really occur. Salilda has categorically denied ever belitting Rafi about the song. And according to Lata Mangeshkar herself (in her Conversations with Nasreen Munni Kabeer [pg105]), it was SD Burman who got them together. An SD Burman Nite was held at Shanmukhananda Hall in 1967, and Rafi and Lata met onstage. The song was Dil Pukare from Jewel Thief. Nargis and various other music directors introduced Burmanda’s songs, and then announced that Rafi and Lata had patched up.

      • Hmmm… all of this is getting interesting, but it seems hard to reconcile everybody’s differing opinions so many years later. I thought that might be the case in some of Edwina’s reminiscences when I was reading her posts – the thought struck me that most of these recollections of ‘who had a fight with whom’ or ‘who wronged whom’ are really perceptions.

      • Anu ji,
        What you state is also true,in a way.
        After recording a duet for GABAN in 1966,both Lata and Rafi were not yet that comfortable with each others and avoided being seen or singing together on stage.
        However,at the SDBurman night in Shanmukhanand hall,SDB took the initiative and requested them to sing together the song,which they had already recorded as a duet in the studios
        earlier.
        This paved the way for their future onstage performances and after this there was a real patch up from the heart(till Rafi wrote a letter to Guiness Book of World Records,later to prove that the claim made by Lata was baseless).
        -AD

  26. Thank you very much for this info, Arunji. I’ve always wanted to know about spats in the industry like Rafi-Lata, SDB-Lata, Sahir-SDB, OP Nayyar-Everybody ;-). Just interesting to know what happened, when, why, how it was resolved if it was. I believe Waheeda had a problem with Raj Khosla too?

    • I must also say “tum bin sajan barse nayan” is an absolutely lovely song by Rafi-Lata. I’ve heard it many times though I had no clue it was from Gaban (1966). I’ve seen this movie but do not remember this song in it.

    • Waheeda stopped working with Raj Khosla, because he wanted the pallu of her sari drop in a certain scene in a shot for Solva Saal. She worked with him later on in Sunny [1984]

  27. “Taj Mahal” is one of those movies that I re-watch from time to time. And like you, Madhu I like the movie for it’s own sake and not just the glorious music. Roshan and Sahir were a match made in heaven!

    I have to nod my head at the appreciation (tolerance?) of Pradeep Kumar in regal/aristocratic roles. He had both the perfect bearing and voice for them. I do recommend “Noor Jehan” with him and Meena K if you haven’t seen it. Neither the movie nor the music(Roshan again though minus Sahir) are upto “Taj Mahal” standards but very enjoyable nevertheless.

    • Thank you for the Noorjehan recommendation, Shalini! I haven’t seen the film, but Karthik had posted links to a couple of the songs on his blog, and my immediate reaction was, “I should see this!” I will, now. I think my DVD rental wallahs have it.

    • They didn’t use the best song in Noorjahan – Raat ki Mehfil Soon Sooni – it’s sublime:

      Also, someone was asking about the new Taj Mahal – I saw it and wasn’t impressed. Music was by Naushad though and was pretty good:

  28. Well, just imagine, ‘jo waada kiya’ made it to a list of 20 best songs ever, that too at No. 3.
    These are based on the choices of some famous musically inclined people, so one can say ‘Musicians’ choice of The Top 20 Songs Ever’ – or some such thing.

    The one on top is a favourite of mine too, from chitralekha
    ‘man re tu kahe na’

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?231648

    • Actually, I’d say that the Outlook story is also a little wonky in titling it ’20 Best Hindi film Songs Ever’ – because they go on to list (and they call it that) the top favourite songs of these people. And when Himesh Reshamiyya and Anu Malik are part of the jury, it does tend to raise my suspicions a bit! ;-)

      But I must admit that I love most of the songs on that list. I personally think Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam should come higher up, but still.

      Thank you for sharing that, pacifist!

  29. I just sit back & enjoy all the comments here from You all & think what a Lovely Group of Bollywood Fans we have here!
    Love You All! Bless!
    Edwina

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