Friday, February 20, 2009
I watched this play in Rangashankara.
I went to this play with a lot of anticipation. There were two reasons.
This was directed by MS Sathyu, a really popular theatre personality. And it was a historic play.
But I thought the script was very inadequate.
The story of the four sons of Shah Jahan and the succession of Aurangzeb to the throne is a very interesting one and hence provides ample scope for a spectacular rendition. But this play has not taken advantage of that scope.
This play claims to be about a historic betrayal.
The opening scene seemed promising – the sets, the soft music and lights, the song and dance, the four narrators articulating in eloquent Urdu – was all very charming. But as the play unfolded, I began to see that it was not going to be all that I thought it would be.
First of all, one needs to know history really well to appreciate such a play. There is much story and only so much of it can be told in 2 hours. The songs and dances steal away some of the time. Therefore such a play assumes that the viewers know the background and follow the piece that’s being enacted. And so it was with this play.
Since I had read this segment of history and that too, only a few months ago, I was able to follow the play to quite an extent.
According to history this is the story.
Shah Jahan had four sons. Dara Shikoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. (He had 14 children, 7 survived to reach adulthood of which 3 were daughters)
Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was friendly with the Rajputs and other Hindus unlike his contemporary fellow Muslims and that was why he was deemed unfit for the throne by the family.
He was especially resented by Aurangzeb who had absolute hatred for all the infidels (Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs etc.) Aurangzeb killed all brothers and became the emperor of Hindustan. I have read an account of the matter written by Aurangzeb himself which gives you his point of view but I will talk about that later……
Dara Shikoh was believed to have been friendly with the Hindus alright but I am not sure if he read the Vedas as depicted in this play!!!
As it has been the nature of people and a practice in this country to glamourize every savage from Central Asia who burnt down our people and places (don’t even get me started on it!), I am skeptical about Dara Shikoh reading the Vedas! Too much!
The abundant use of Urdu posed some difficulty. My Hindi is really good and I understand Urdu to some extent but a profusion of rich Urdu dialogues delivered one after the other made it difficult to appreciate their full meaning and purport.
There is nobody playing the character of Aurangzeb, the antagonist. It would have helped if someone had played Aurangzeb.
The cause of enmity/hostility between brothers and the events that lead to the final betrayal are not depicted either. The play is incomplete. They could have done away with all those songs and dances and shown more story instead.
Most of the play was narrated and not enacted, especially the climax.
The climax is the war scene and difficult to enact I agree but they could have used props such as the frequently changing background picture, as I have seen in some other plays. There are so many techniques available to modern theatre.
On the whole, the play was mediocre.