Saturday, October 8, 2011

Garden Images in the Media - Part 1: Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

One of the things I have recently become quite fascinated with is the portrayal of gardens - and man-made landscapes more generally - in various forms of modern media. Many films, for instance, make conspicuous use of garden settings. Sometimes these are relevant to the film's plot or at least its overall mood, while at other times they seem more coincidental, a mere pretty backdrop that could be exchanged for some other setting without fundamentally altering the work. Actual gardens or cultivated landscapes are often used as locations for shooting scenes but at least as frequent are the artificial creations of set designers. The latter can rarely conceal their artificiality from someone familiar with plants and gardens, yet even so they can occasionally be inspiring, even if they just as often come across as tacky and fake. Since I find this variety very intriguing and would like to gain a better understanding of what media portrayals of gardens might have to say about their larger social and cultural roles - and because winter will all too soon deprive me of interesting "outdoor" material for posts - I am starting a series on garden images from films, music videos, and the like. First up is the Indian historical epic Mughal-e-Azam from 1960, directed by K. Asif and starring Madhubala, Prithviraj Kapoor, and Dilip Kumar. One of the most successful Hindi-language films of all times, it tells the tragic love story between the Mughal prince Salim - the future emperor Jahangir - and the dancing girl Anarkali or "pomegranate blossom." There are a number of garden scenes in the film, most of which accompany romantic musical sequences, the "gardens" in question being exuberant studio recreations of elements taken from Mughal and Rajput gardens and garden images.

I would love input on this - What do you think of these garden images? What movie or other media depictions of gardens, if any, have a struck a chord with you? Do you pay attention to garden or landscapes as they appear in films and other media? Any thoughts are welcome... :)


  1. The rooftop garden in the last few scenes of the Better Off Ted episode "Jabberwocky" was pretty cool, though 1) I can't find a video of it on-line and 2) it's not particularly funny unless you've seen the rest of the episode.

  2. I have seen Mughal-e-azam long time ago, before I became interested in gardens. But I always thought that the scenes were fake, with paper flowers and vines.

  3. Mr. Subjunctive - Thanks for the tip! I have never seen the show but I will be on the look-out for that episode.

    lotusleaf - They are very fake indeed. I guess I find the intricacy and exuberance of those obviously artificial sets intriguing, though. It makes me wonder what it would look like if one tried to recreate that gaudiness with real plants, pools, and buildings...


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