Mirza Ghalib by Sohrab modi – A true biographical film on Ghalib with the essence of Shahjahanabad in it. 

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Mirza Ghalib by Sohrab modi – A true biographical film on Ghalib with the essence of Shahjahanabad in it. 

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Asadullah beg Khan or Mirza ghalib is one of the leading literary figures of urdu adab and shayari of unprecedented stature, which leaves awe inspiring gratitude from readers and listeners of his poetic verses around the globe. He has influenced innumerable poets and literary genres over the years , his work translated into languages encompassing borders and countries of the world.

Mirza Ghalib, art work by Abu Sufiyan

Cinema too has its own Fascination with Ghalib. Sohrab Modi of Minerva Urdu, was a movie Mogul of the times in which Mehboob khan and the likes of V Shantaram , Bombay Talkies under Devika awe-inspiring and Himanshu Rai were scaling new heights on the celluloid medium. A period and genre of films which was hugely inspired by the swash bukling narratives of sword fighting, Mythology and later neorealism a film which stands apart and made an indented mark, was Mirza Ghalib in which Bharat Bhushan portrayed the titular character.

Mirza Ghalib  [1954] – Bharat Bhushan | Suraiya | Nigar Sultana | Durga Khote

The film explored the life and times of Ghalib in the city of Shahjahanabad the erstwhile strong hold of the mighty Mughal empire. The city of Shahjahanabad in which Ghalib finds patronage under the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar( himself a poet of considerable stature) is a city crumbling under the tentacles of British company rule. The journey of Ghalib from Agra to Shahjahanabad is also a migration or hijrat to look for brighter prospects and livelihood.

Bharat Bhushan brilliantly plays the shades of eccentric, genius, brooding poet to perfection. The women in his life, his pious wife played by Nigar Sultan(Bahar of Mughal e Azam) and the talented poetess Moti begum played by Suraiyaa(Mallika –e- Tarannum) with whom Mirza shares a literary exchange of poetry and emotions is the marking point of the film , the subtleness of it under the aegis of the direction acumen of Sohrab Modi is breath taking and splendid.

Suraiya’s singing (of Mirza Ghalib’s ghazals) and her acting was specially applauded by the Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, who remarked to her ” You have brought back Ghalib to life”, in a special screening of the film in Rastrapati Bhawan. The film had some memorable dialogues penned by the Urdu stalwart Rajinder Singh Bedi and story by another maverick genius, Saddat Hassan Manto. The ensemble caste of Mukri as money lender , Murad as Shaher Qazi, Ulhaas as Kotwal Hashmat and Ifteqar as the aging Emperor Bahadur shah Zafar makes the film an account, which is fictional in many aspects but the depth and sensible portrayal of the characters, makes it a lively account of the day and times of that period in Indian history. The opium dens of Shahjahanabad with ‘Afeemchis’, the alleys always opening themselves to poetic discourses are some beautifully captured aspects of the film. The film was a recipient of the best film at the 2nd National award constituted, in 1954 and still remains a gem which glitters like the Kohinoor , the time and age has made their cuts with audience sensibilities but it still refracts the glorious past of its making and the hard work put into it by the cast. The Shahjahanabad it depicts is Purani Delhi , and it is said the older the wine gets the better it tastes. It also can teach a few much needed lessons to the assembly line production of biopics that are coming out of the Indian fim industry lately, in a race that overpowers the research and sensible portrayal of characters. Mirza Ghalib(1954) is a must watch for all reasons, for all seasons, mainly because it has the soul of Shahjahanbad in its unforgettable frames!.

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About Haris Hasan

A Corporate communications and advertising techie with interests in Film studies, arts , culture, quizzing,sports , teaching and food!

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