How Exactly Did Manish Malhotra Design The Breathtaking Costumes For Mughal-E-Azam’s Stage Adaptation?

Mughal-E-Azam the movie was a triumph for a variety of reasons, the costuming being one of them. The palace of Akbar could not have come to life with the prince dressed in khakis and a polo shirt. Makhanlal and company were the ones who executed the lavish costumes for the film back then and set the standard which Manish Malhotra had to follow for the 2016 stage adaptation.


So how does somebody go about creating a look for an entire cast on stage when they know they’re going to be compared to a classic? For Malhotra, it was simple, he didn’t take on the challenge for money, but as a passion project.

The designer has had an illustrious career but he admits that he has never had an opportunity to design for the stage. After all, the stage brings its own set of challenges. Once the actor is on, he’s on. It’s live, in-your-face and cannot be corrected.

This led him to think of prints and embroidery that could be seen under David Lander and John Narun’s masterful lighting. About how fast the actors would need to change from one costume to another backstage and how heavy each exquisite piece would be.


Because throughout Mughal-E-Azam, to an audience member –  the lights look dramatic, but clean, without too much colour, the real colour on stage is brought on by the costumes.

Whether it is a reimagining of the iconic light blue and red Anarkali Madhubala donned in the film or the rich and lavish outfits that Bahar wears to flaunt her charm, there’s no inch of the stage that looks dull. Every crevice is lit to perfection with the gorgeous clothes bringing out the actors to inhabit the space.

Because here there is no trickery that can be employed, no camera angle with an assistant bouncing light to show off one small detail in the frame. Here every single actor is in view and all the costumes are equally on display. So naturally, it took Manish Malhotra’s team 3 months to create around 550 costumes that underwent countless revisions.


Malhotra pulled out all the stops for this endeavour, throwing on pure silks, brocades, decadent embroidery and jewellery onto the actors without overwhelming them. Every gehra on the elaborate skirts was used to highlight the twirling dancers and each colour to capture the mood of the scene. From

This dedication actually slowed down production on his own label to focus on Mughal-e-Azam.


Because the easy thing would have been to copy the work of the original film, but harder still is to pay tribute to it in an original way. Something that Malhotra undoubtedly achieved.


Mughal-E-Azam is coming to Delhi! Check out more details on BookMyShow

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Mehernaz Patel

"Not as funny as she thinks she is..." -Facebook Comment Section

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