The movie is based loosely on real events and a legend. Anarkali, a tawaif and a dancer falls in love with Crown Prince Salim (who would later go on to become Emperor Jahangir). Salim's father, the Emperor Akbar objects because of Anarkali's low social position. Emperor Akbar orders her imprisonment. Salim rebels against his father and orders an army to launch a siege. He gets defeated easily. Anarkali, to spare the life of Salim, asks Emperor Akbar to take her life instead. He orders publicly for her to be buried alive in a wall though he spares her in private. Salim unaware is distraught. He then falls in love with Bahaar, a courtesan jealous of Anarkali, and he is unaware that Anarkali is still alive. For Bollywood fans, the film has the quintessential Star-Crossed Lovers.
- Ambition Is Evil: Played straight with Bahar, discussed in-universe by the Sculptor, when talking about Akbar.
- Artistic License History: Big time. Anarkali most likely never existed, and the identity and real name of the woman whom the film portrays as queen Jodhabai is still up for discussion these days.
- Anti-Villain: Emperor Akbar.
- Crowd Song - The ending of Jab Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya or "If you love, then what's left to fear?", "Zindabad" ("Long live [love]").
- Downer Ending
- Ermine Cape Effect - Among everybody.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Sculptor.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Bahar is sometimes said to be a reference to Nur Jahan - the real wife of the historical Salim/Jahangir, who, like Bahar, also was a lady-in-waiting to one of Akbar's wives. In real life, Nur Jahan was a cultured and educated woman, active in politics and enjoyed mutual love and respect with her husband. It isn't likely she attempted a second-degree murder on one of his other women.
- G-Rated Sex: "Prem Jogan Banke", aka the famous scene where Salim caresses Anarkali's gasping face with a feather.
- Love Hurts
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Very much inverted with the Muslim Akbar and the Hindu Jodhabai - Hindus and Muslims are shown to cohabitate in peace and harmony at the Akbar's court. That, of course, was a part of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped aesop of the times.
- Meaningful Rename: When Akbar orders Jodha to include Nadira into her entourage, he confers upon her a new name - Anarkali. The reason being that "in the Mughal Empire, Muslim noblewoman who entered the imperial harem were given titles as a mark of honour".
- Pet the Dog: Emperor Akbar orders Anarkali to be buried in a wall. He lets her escape at the last minute with the promise that she never returns.
- Requisite Royal Regalia - The opulence on the movie is seen to be believed.
- Schmuck Bait: Salim is told not to unveil the statue before the moon has set, as the astrologer has said it would be a bad omen. Well, guess what he does... Salim even lampshades this:Salim: On one hand, the sculptor's claim; on the other, the omen... and the statue is shrouded. How can I wait until morning, Durjan?
- Starcrossed Lovers
- The Beautiful Elite - Madhubala is famous for her beauty. Dilip Kumar who played Prince Salim was also known to be handsome. Prithviraj Kapoor was considered very good looking when he was young and played the Emperor Akbar.