The exorbitant expense of Mughal-e-Azam can be gauged from the fact that Mughal-e-Azam‘s budget was almost 5 times more of filmmaker Mehboob Khan‘s most ambitious film Aan (1952). Readers would be surprised to know that Aan was Mehboob Khan‘s most expensive film as it was India’s first Technicolor film and was processed in London. Despite such technical expense, Aan was produced at a budget of 35 Lakh but Mughal-e-Azam despite being Black and white cost Rs 1.5 Crore!! Wanna know the reason???
Well, filmmaker K Asif was a ‘Perfectionist’, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Asif was ‘More Perfectionist’ than modern day’s Mr. Perfectionist aka Aamir Khan!! K Asif never compromised and always selected the ‘Best’, even though it meant paying exorbitant money!!. For instance when he designed the ‘Sheesh Mahal‘ to shoot the song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya… he spends money literally like water! The set erected at the cost of Rs. 15 lakhs dazzled with imported glasses brought from Belgium. It’s reported that it took over two years to complete the Mahal that was dexterously inlaid with multi-color mirrors on walls, pillars and the ceiling with the assistance of expert artisan specially brought from Ferozabad. When the set was ready it dazed the onlookers and left them in awe.
Since the film was largely shot on sets, hence for every set, Asif spent months and after perfection, he began shooting. Most of the sets were extravagant with lavish furnishings. The costumes were designed by special designers skilled in zardozi embroidery and Mughul costume came from Surat. The footwear came from Agra, genuine jewelry was made by Hyderabadi jewelers, Kolhapur artisans expert in crowns made crowns. Armory like shields, swords, spears, daggers etc was made by Rajasthani blacksmiths.
The battle sequence between Akbar and Salim was shot for over 6 months in the desert of Rajasthan. Asif had specially taken the service of 8,000 troops, from the Indian Army’s Jaipur cavalry, 56th Regiment.
Asif was so passionate about details that he did not care about money and paid handsomely to get the right effect. For instance for the Tansen song he paid a whopping Rs 25,000 for a single song to legendary Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali, when ordinary singer charged Rs 150 to Rs 200 per song during that time!
After Aan was made in Technicolor, K Asif was mesmerized by the film and shot the Sheesh Mahal’ song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya…in Technicolor. After watching the song he shot the entire climax in Technicolor!! The shooting in Technicolor again delayed the film but Asif did not lose patient while the distributors and film producer Shapoorji Pallonji fumed in anger!! However, when the film was finally ready after 15 years, it proved a milestone!
Shapoorji Pallonji had tears of joy in his eyes and he hugged Asif and forgave all his antics.