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Review of Feroz Khan’s musical play ‘Mughal e Azam’

Review by Manju Sampat

If you really want to give yourself an artistic and a visual treat, then seeing Feroz Khan’s musical play ‘Mughal e Azam’ is mandatory. Currently running at NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha auditorium for its sixth season of houseful shows, this play is a theatre goer’s dream come true. It is a production of the highest quality and can rival any top ended Broadway or Westend show.

Shapoorji Pallonji, produced the original K. Asif film ‘Mughal e Azam’ and this stage production, which is an adaptation of the film, has also been funded by them. Feroz Abbas Khan the theatre veteran, who has directed this musical, has used this funding judiciously to give us a most spectacular show. This musical has everything going for it…brilliant sets done by Neil Patel, beautiful costumes designed by Manish Malhotra, and absolutely stunning choreography by Mayuri Upadhya. The lighting design by David Lander and John Narun’s projection design, add a cinematic quality to this production.  With the clever and creative usage of lighting and projection, The Palace, its gardens, the Sheesh Mahal or the glass palace, the dungeon, battle scenes, are realistically and artistically depicted.

Everyone loved the classic film with Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala and Naushad’s haunting music from ‘Mughal e Azam’ has been loved all these years. Hearing these wonderful songs sung during the course of this musical,  is a thrilling aural experience. The story is well known and is set in the late sixteenth century when Emperor Akbar’s son Saleem falls in love with the courtesan Anarkali. It is a tragic love story, as Akbar refuses to let his son the prince, marry a commoner. Saleem even goes to war with his father to claim his right  to marry the woman he loves, but to no avail. However, this allows the director to weave in some exciting battle scenes, which are spectacularly shown with the help of clever lighting and film projection. Anarkali ‘s famous dance scene in the Sheesh Mahal, where she sings the haunting “Pyar Kiya to darna kya”, is a visual treat, as numerous glass mirrors in various hues are projected onto the stage to give a stunning effect.

Priyanka Barve as Anarkali is outstanding both in her singing and dancing. Nissar Khan’s portrayal of Emperor Akbar is regal and full of vigour.. Dhanveer Singh as Saleem lends able support. However, what stands out in the ultimate analysis, is Priyanka Barve’s beautiful singing, the fabulous costumes, the wonderful dancing, and the sheer grandeur of this production. We have seldom seen a show of this artistic magnitude in this city. The current season runs till November 5th, so do not miss it!

For the benefit of some of the viewers, the director has chosen to project the English translation of the words being spoken on stage, onto two front side screens in the auditorium.

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