The first season of Feroz Abbas Khan’s Mughal-e-Azam had a spectacular show in Delhi in September last year. All 12 shows originally planned for the city ran houseful, and the appreciation had led them to do an extended run of five shows. And in the season of love, the timeless love story of Prince Salim and Anarkali returns to woo Delhiites with its grandeur and opulence.
However, revisiting an epic love saga and bringing it from screen to stage was easier said than done for the maverick director, who had been secretly nursing the ambition to stage a massive theatrical version of the film. “I was captivated by the brilliance of this cinematic masterpiece, So, I expressed my desire to recreate that era by making a play at the scale of cinema, which yet has the soul of a theatre.
Recreating the stage version of K Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam was a daunting experience. But I convinced the right partners, Shapoorji Pallonji and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, to come on board. In the case of Mughal-e-Azam, ambition, utopia and insanity could mean the same thing. To put it simply, I felt challenged and scared,” says Khan.
The musical play has all the elements of the epic film, and also features eight songs to be performed as part of the narrative. Khan says, “Mughal-e-Azam is apt for theatrical adaptation because even the film was inspired by a play, Anarkali, which K Asif saw and borrowed passages of dialogue from it. It’s a dramatic father-son story with the nation at stake. In its writing skills and mounting, it was close to perfection with great dialogues and emotional story-telling, complemented by eye-catching visuals and a terrific score.”
Calling Mughal-e-Azam as a work of art, he says, “The play derives its DNA from the film. While the characters are same, the treatment in the play is more contemporary but at the same time, we have retained the original essence of the film. We have to respect people’s memories of the film. It is but obvious for the audience to draw comparisons with the film, but they are surely not going to be disappointed.”
The musical stars theatre actors Nissar Khan as Akbar, Priyanka Barve as Anarkali and Dhanveer Singh as Salim.
Singh calls it a beautiful experience to be a part of the musical. He has been applauded for his performance by none other than veteran actor Waheeda Rahman who walked up to him and said, “You reminded me of Yusuf sahab.” Of all the compliments he has received, this one remains the most special, egging him to do better every time he is on stage as Salim.
Barve, who plays Anarkali, says, “People here understand the nuances of Urdu, and it is their love for the language that makes them come out in large numbers to witness the love saga unfold on the stage. The generation that grew up watching the film has an element of nostalgia attached to it, but the love and appreciation of the younger generation gladden our heart and prove that it is an ageless story.”
At Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium; from Feb 1 to 11.
Ticket: Rs 500-10,000