How is Mughal-E-Azam, a story set in the sixteenth century, relevant to the narratives of modern history? How does a character from the film, male or female, a minor character or the protagonist, become a symbol of the nation? It could be the suffering peasant mother, the disillusioned poet, the smitten prince, the proud father, or the poor artist. How is the film a story of the modern nation of India even if it is a historical tale? How do tradition and modernity interact in the particular cinematic narrative, and to what effect? How is the use of film, itself an artifact of modernity, invested in creating a particular notion of the past?
Why is the past so relevant in India’s march to modernity? You are not required to demonstrate historical knowledge. The assignment does not presume that you know Indian history. However, you are required to delve into the relationship between notions of traditional personhood and modern citizenry.