With its brilliant dialogues, music and cinematography and the sensuous on-screen pair of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, K. Asif’s 1960 magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam had more than just a romantic story line that made it one of the highest grossing Bollywood films.
But one factor that contributed to the success of the film was that it ran for seven years at an iconic theatre in Mumbai, the Maratha Mandir. Mughal-e-Azam’s long-standing record was broken by Aditya Chopra’s 1995 debut directorial Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The Braveheart will Take Away the Bride). In the beginning of this year, the film completed a continuous stint of 1,000 weeks at Maratha Mandir.
“Today, we commence the 1,041st week of screening DDLJ at Maratha Mandir,” Manoj Desai, managing director of the cinema told tabloid! on Friday, contradicting reports earlier this year that the film had had its final show in February. The management retracted its decision to stop screening after the 1,009th week as they were flooded with requests over social media and otherwise to reconsider.
Desai, who took over the management of the theatre in 1979, says that the theatre has seen several box office hits since its creation 1952, starting with its first release, B.R. Chopra’s Sadhana.
“Maratha Mandir is a sophisticated, heritage theatre with 1,105 seats and most importantly it’s the ticket rates which are the crowd puller. Where would you get to watch a film in India for Rs16 (Dh0.9), Rs 18 or Rs20? Today, even a waiter doesn’t appreciate a tip of that amount. So why wouldn’t anyone want to watch an iconic film in an air-conditioned hall for that kind of money?” Desai said.
Why DDLJ is such a favourite with viewers is also because of its location. The theatre is situated between two of the city’s interstate transport facilities.
“The USP of the theatre is its location. It is situated in front of the city’s biggest railway station, the Mumbai Central station, and beside the state bus depot. Both of them connect the city to various places in Punjab, Gujarat, New Delhi,” said Desai. “So what happens is instead of waiting on the railway platform or the bus stand, people come in and watch the film and then catch the train or bus at whatever time it may be. We get a steady 40-45 per cent out-of-Mumbai audience each day, apart from the local viewers. And by the grace of God, weekend shows run full house.”
DDLJ, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, became a runaway hit with its message of strong family values. Raj (Khan) decides to woo Simran’s (Kajol) father (Amrish Puri) before he made her his bride. Even when Simran felt the only way out was to elope, Raj conforms to traditional Indian norms for his bride to be handed over to him by her father rather than disgrace him in society. Probably, this is a story that resonates with the young generation of the time. Desai informed us that he’s met people who have watched the film hundreds of times and his personal gain from all this is the fact that people now know him because of DDLJ.
“You will be surprised to hear that people tell me they’ve watched the film 300-400 times. Personally I feel it was the good story, the very good music, the fresh pair of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and it being Aditya Chopra’s first film under Yash Chopra’s supervision, that have contributed to its success. And what makes me most happy is that couples come to me and say they’ve dated here, then got engaged and married, and returned to watch the film after their honeymoon. This is why DDLJ is a landmark film.”