New twist to a classic
Feroz Abbas Khan created Mughal-e-Azam, India's first largescale Broadway-style musical. It was a tribute to filmmaker K Asif who had made the iconic 1960 film based on the legendary romance between Mughal prince Salim and the courtesan Anarkali. In a short three years, the show has been staged across India and the world.
After a successful stint in Dubai earlier this year, the show will be staged for the 175th time at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. It has been received well across the world and has won seven out of the 14 Broadway World India Awards including Best Play, Best Director, and Best Costume Design.
Following the tragic love story depicted in the film, the show includes original music and songs composed by Naushad and written by Shakeel Badayuni, apart from two new compositions. The songs are sung live on stage to a prerecorded orchestral and choral score.
With a cast and crew of over 350 people, it has 30 Kathak dancers. Neha Sargam and Priyanka Barve play Anarkali, theatre actors Nissar Khan, Syed Shahab Ali, and Dhanveer Singh essay Akbar and Salim.
But the show comes with a new perspective to the story. Whle the defiance is visible in Anarkali (how can one forget the song Pyar kiya to darna kya?), filmed on Madhubala, the show bridges the gender inequality of the original story.
"A woman who can defy the most powerful man on earth, and declare her love in court is a woman for all times," Khan told Mail Today.
"Pyar kiya to darna kya is a declaration of an independent choice of a woman, especially in the period that the narrative has been set in. The musical is more about giving equality and power to the voices of the women through its narrative. The female characters stand up to male arrogance and ego."
It is not as much about greater prominence to the female characters but the power and force of their voices, added Khan.
"They stand up to the male characters with conviction, grace and equality. The male ego is not pandered to, with subservience or meekness. The play captures them displaying more sensitivity and understanding in critical situations."
Even though the play remains faithful to the original, in letter and spirit, Khan said that the pace and rhythm of contemporary life is depicted.
"The play is shorter and energised with live performances of an ensemble cast of over 75 artistes. It has a performance style that is intimate and personal," he added.
The play aims at being contemporary because "as long as people continue to fall in love and are ready to sacrifice their lives for it, this story will remain relevant for times to come".
- The show is on from April 6 to 21. Book online at bookmyshow.com