8 Historical Bollywood Films That Illustrate Muslim Culture

8 Historical Bollywood Films That Illustrate Muslim Culture

Some of my favorite historical films which display the sophistication and elegance of Muslim culture in India

Bollywood is known for its intensity, its musicals, and its flair for drama, amongst other things. Being an old soul, I spend a lot of my time watching older movies from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, a very different era in Indian cinema. I don't think I could pick a favorite movie since there are too many different genres in which I have many favorites. However, one of my favorite subjects are the movies which prominently display Muslim culture, specifically the historical dramas. Muslim culture in India has taken its own shape over the centuries, reaching its peak during the Mughal Empire (1526-1857). While in many ways Muslim culture in the Indian subcontinent has fused with Hindu culture, giving it its own beautiful and individual character, there are distinct aspects of the culture and influence that are unmistakable and have their own unique beauty. The city of Lucknow in India in particular, is known for being the hub of Muslim culture, with its polished Urdu and sophisticated lifestyle, especially during the time of the Mughal Dynasty. The beauty and elegance of the culture has been displayed time and time again in certain Bollywood films with great success and appreciation. They showed the tehzeeb (etiquette) of the people and they were set around beautiful love stories, with excellent Urdu poetry and dialogues. There are of course certain films which stand out more than others, so allow me to tell you about the some of the Bollywood movies with the best displays of Muslim culture!

*Side note: The films I list specifically focus on the Nawabi culture of the Muslims, rather than the other films which show a more middle-class lifestyle.

Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

An all-time blockbuster, this film shows the epic love story of Salim and Anarkali. This film definitely has to be my all-time favorite not just because of the beautiful chemistry between Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, but also because of the superb music composed by the one and only Naushad. Singers such as Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi sang some of their most memorable songs for this film, such as Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat, and Aye Mohabbat Zindabad. The sets and costumes were extremely detailed, displaying the lavish lifestyle that the Mughals enjoyed, and the exquisite Urdu dialogues were my favorite part of the film. Originally a black and white film, the movie was re-released in color in 2004 with renewed success. If you watch the movie again in color, you’ll notice how well they have managed to color even the most complex and grand scenes with great attention to detail. The song Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna was a visual treat because of Madhubala’s image in the mirrors as she danced. The screenplay as a whole for this film was very well-done. This film would definitely have to be my number one favorite in this category!

Pakeezah (1972)

Taking nearly 14 years to complete, Pakeezah is considered to be one of Meena Kumari’s best performances in her lifetime (and also one of the last movies she starred in, since she died a few weeks after it was released). This film had some truly beautiful scenery and dialogues. The ghazals were very well-written by legends such as Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaif Bhopali, and Kamal Amrohi. Unfortunately, only 9 out of the 18 songs written for the film were used, but the ones that were used were memorable. Lata Mangeshkar truly outdid herself with songs such as Aaj Hum Apni Duaaon Ka Asar (in which Meena Kumari dramatically danced on glass until her feet bled), Mausam Hai Aashiqana, and Inhin Logon Ne among others. The dance performances by Meena Kumari were also memorable, with beautiful kathak (traditional Indian dance) used in the sequences.

Anarkali (1953)

Another rendition of the story of Salim and Anarkali, this film has Bina Rai playing the role of the infamous courtesan. Her dialogues were delivered very well and she played her role with grace. But for me, the songs are where the winning points of the film were songs such as Mujhse Mat Pooch Mere, Yeh Zindagi Uss Hi Ki Hai, and Dua Kar Gham-E-Dil. It was one of those films whose ghazals and Urdu language were highly praised. While I feel that Mughal-e-Azam did the most justice to this particular story, the performances of Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar cannot go without praise. Their chemistry on screen was beautifully shown. It is a must watch!

Taj Mahal (1963)

Starring Bina Rai and Pradeep Kumar once more, Taj Mahal showed the love story of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. While the dialogues and costumes of the movie were noteworthy, the film is most acclaimed for its music. My personal favorite songs are Jo Baat Tujh Mein Hai and Jo Waada Kiya Woh, which show some beautiful scenes between the two actors and contain the evergreen vocals of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi. Personally, I enjoyed Taj Mahal more than Anarkali simply because the story of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan is one that is less shown in films, and so this gave the filmmakers more room to experiment and tell the story in their own way.

Umrao Jaan (1981)

Based on the novel Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Hadi Ruswa, this film tells the tragic story of a young girl who is kidnapped and sold to a brothel and becomes a courtesan. Not being a huge fan of Rekha, I was extremely impressed with her performance in Umrao Jaan, displaying the delicate tehzeeb of Lucknow and of course her delivery of the dialogues. And of course, Rekha being an excellent dancer was also able to perform the kathak sequences with elegance and grace. This film was also interesting because the ghazals were sung by Asha Bhosle, who was not known for singing ghazals, usually leaving them to her elder sister and alleged rival, Lata Mangeshkar. Asha truly outdid herself in this film’s soundtrack, my favorite song being Inn Aankhon Ki Masti. This would have to be one of my favorite films about the courtesans of Lucknow!

Jahan Ara (1964)

While I wouldn’t have pegged Mala Sinha for this type of role, I was once again surprised by her excellent Urdu and her portrayal of the Emperor Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jahanara, who never married (Mughal princesses were forbidden to marry) and dedicated her life to caring for Shah Jahan after the death of Mumtaz Mahal. This film adds drama to Jahanara’s original story by introducing a love interest played by Bharat Bhushan. I especially enjoyed the large palace and the gardens showed in this film, again highlighting the grandeur of the Mughals. Jahanara’s story is another one which is not prominently featured in films and so it was nice to see an adaptation of her character on screen.

Chadhvin Ka Chand (1960)

One of the best parts about this film was that while it was a drama, it didn’t shy away from including some light comedy by the extremely talented Johnny Walker. Sometimes watching these films and all of their drama can get a bit dark, so it was great to see some good humor in the film, especially in the song Mera Yaar Bana Hai Dulha. Guru Dutt plays the role of a man in love with a courtesan played by Waheeda Rehman, whose performance as a courtesan was well-received by audiences. The dialogues and music in this film were my favorite parts. The lyrics, written by Shakeel Badyuni, of songs such as Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Mili Khak Main Mohabbat were beautifully sung by Mohammed Rafi and pictured on Guru Dutt, who did immense justice to his role.

Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977)

Considered to be more of an independent film, Shatranj Ke Khilari tells the story of two noblemen in Awadh on the eve of the 1857 rebellion who are obsessed with the game of chess, neglecting all other duties to play it. The film shows the relaxed lifestyle of these men, whose days consist mainly of sleeping and smoking the hookah whenever they are not playing chess. I especially enjoyed the fact that aside from the scenes in the palace in Lucknow, the settings and scenery were comparatively more simple and yet the lifestyle was still one of sophistication and aristocracy.

All of these films prominently display the Muslim culture of India among the nawabs and the elite. Their display of the lavish lives that the characters led, their exquisite and unique mannerisms, and their contribution to the arts is a testament to their strong place in the culture of the Indian subcontinent. As someone who enjoys poetry, the Urdu language used in both the ghazals and the dialogues was a huge treat. If you haven’t yet seen these films and are interested in such subjects, don’t waste any more time! Treat yourself to some excellent contributions in Indian cinema!

Cover Image Credit: http://cinegems.in/madhubala-the-venus-of-indian-cinema/

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Remember To Be Kind To Theme Park Cast Members This Holiday Season

They make the magic for you.

For those of you who have traveled to a theme park during the holidays, you know what you are in for.

The weeks right before and after Christmas are some of the busiest times of the year to visit, making the parks extremely crowded and wait times higher than usual. Yet, this time is so popular since it is fun to experience the magic of the season with your family during the special Christmastime celebrations at the parks that bring something extra to your holidays.

One of the most important things to remember during this time of year is to be nice to the cast members!

Families that come to the parks during this time have so much to remember and so much to do; unfortunately, something that is often forgotten during a vacation is to be thankful for those who have to work during this time of year.

The cast members and team members who work during the holidays are doing so at the expense of spending time with their own families. They are sacrificing their Christmas celebrations at home to be at work making your vacation magical.

Some of these workers are hundreds if not thousands of miles away from their families and may not have seen them for weeks or even months. Yet, they are here in Orlando working in a job that they are passionate about because they love making happiness for their guests

Making magic and spreading happiness is something that is important to us and why we love what we do. However, it is still really hard to be away from our families at Christmas.

Think it is hard to be a guest when the parks are crowded?

It's even more difficult for the cast members who are working as hard as they can, for 8-15 hour shifts, when things happen that are out of our control. We too dislike long waits, telling your child that he is too short to ride or the fact that a ride is temporarily closed. These things make our jobs difficult too, just as they may be a huge setback in your vacation plans.

So focus on the positive things and appreciate the time you can spend with your families and friends rather than dwelling on the things that may be small setbacks during an overall wonderful holiday vacation. Please be patient this holiday season. Give the cast members a smile and a pleasant "thank you" or "Merry Christmas". We are here for you and we want you to have a wonderful vacation, but it still makes an incredible difference to know that our work is appreciated.

At this time of year, it is important to spread Christmas cheer and we are excited to celebrate with you and your families!

Cover Image Credit: Park Troopers

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7 Reasons 'Starset' Deserves To Get Big

The main reason they deserve success is that they love everything they do.


Starset consists of four members, Dustin Bates, Ron DeChant, Brock Richards, and Adam Gilbert. The band was formed in Columbus, Ohio in 2013. Their music has influenced my and several others lives.

Here are a few reasons why they deserve to go down as one of the biggest bands in history.

1. They're the most original band I've heard in awhile.

Starset's content is unlike any other band I've heard or seen before. They classify themselves as "space rock", creating a type of music that many have never heard of before. They use your regular guitar, bass, and drums, but they also incorporate the use of violins, cellos, and synthesizers to create the unique, one of a kind sound. The lead singer, Dustin Bates, even created his own microphone that distorts his voice to use in live shows, so that you feel as though he's speaking to you through a radio in a space station.

2. They're all a bunch of nerds/dorks.

Starset is the kind of band that you'd love to be friends with. Not only are they wicked smart, they also have an amazing sense of humor. They incorporate their knowledge into the songs that they write, leaving you wanting to learn more about what it is they write in their songs.

3. Their songs are lyrically and melodically beautiful.

Ricochet is one of their most impactful and meaningful songs. When you first listen to it you can hear the emotion in Dustin's voice, but as you take a minute to listen to the lyrics, you realize it has so much more meaning than what you assumed. It represents the struggle of a relationship gone sour, the internal struggles within yourself, and the effect it has on both people in the relationship. It's a song that a lot of people can relate to, and I find that amazing.

4. They interact with and care about their fans.

Nyah Kite

Before their shows, they do eat and greets where they hang out with their fans, eat pizza, perform some acoustic songs, and take pictures with them. They have genuine conversations with them, asking us our names, what we like to do, and just keep up small talk. My brother, pictured here, had a conversation with Ron, the bassist, before the show started and they got along phenomenally. I don't know many bands who take that much time to get to know their fans and they even interact with them on Twitter.

5. Have comics with Marvel.

The Prox Transmissions - Marvel Comics


Not only does Starset create music, they also have their own comics with Marvel. The comics are based on an alternate world they created through their music. Each album has a story, but now it's come to life through their comic, The Pros Transmissions. How dope is that?

6. Created their own society to inform the world of various things.

The Starset Society is a mission, created by Starset, to inform others of the up-coming technological advances happening in the world today. The main goal of this society is to make sure we're well aware of the things happening in the world, and it's not just aimed for the fans of Starset. It's influenced by the idea of Thomas Jefferson that says the first step toward a guided future is an informed public.

7. They love what they do.

Nyah Kite

The main reason they deserve success is that they love everything they do. They put so much work into making their shows interactive and enjoyable, and they spend years working on albums so that they and their fans are pleased with the final product. Knowing that they put so much passion and effort into their work makes it obvious that they deserve to be one of the biggest bands in history.

After learning more about this amazing, influential band, aren't you intrigued to hear more of their music? To learn more about their society and their comics? They're great people with a great purpose driving them to continue creating some of the most unique, epic rock sounds in history. Check out Starset. You won't regret it.

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