When K. Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam, based on the Pakistani playwright Imtiaz Ali Raj’s play Anarkali, was released in 1960, it became a blockbuster. The magnificent sets, thunderous dialogues and rhythmic dance numbers featured in the film enthralled viewers so much that Mughal-e-Azam acquired the status of a classic soon after its release.
Cut to 2019, and the film’s status is intact. Most recently, it has been adapted into a musical play, now on at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, the play lives up to the standards set by the original in every way, including in terms of acting and dialogue delivery. The clear, distinct voices of the actors further add value to the overall show.
The storyline of the musical, as in the original, is centred around the many conflicts-of-interest between the various characters. For instance, between Salim (played alternately by Syed Shahab Ali and Dhanveer Singh) and Akbar(played by Nissar Khan). It is also about the parental affection of Jodha (played by Sonal Jha and Pubali Sanyal) towards Salim, and about Anarkali’s unflinching love for Salim even after she is put into a dungeon. Anarakali’s role is played, on different days, by actors Priyanka Barve and Neha Sargam, both of whom are also trained singers.
All the actors, wherever required, sing live on the stage. The musical features renditions of songs from the original soundtrack, sung by the actors. Besides, there are spectacular dance performances, well-choreographed and classically styled.
The stage design and lighting teams, too, have done a fair job in recreating the famous mirror set as seen in the song “Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya” in the movie.
But the play goes far beyond the aspects of acting and design. It has, like the original film, many underlying political messages which are freshly relevant to our world today—whether it is about authoritarian rule we are thinking about (symbolised by Akbar’s character) or the issue of honour killing. It is also interesting to note that the role of Anarkali has been given a lot more importance in the play as compared to the movie.
Overall, the play is a fine adaptation of the film. Apart from celebrating the original, Feroz Abbas Khan’s work serves the crucial purpose of rekindling memories of a cinema classic. — Bhumika Popli
The third season of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ is on till 21 April in Delhi; tickets can be bought on BookMyShow