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Anarkali Rises Again!

Jun/18/2023 / by Abhijit Masih

The tale of forbidden love in a Mughal court enthralls America

A scene from the stage version of Mughal-E-Azam
A scene from the stage version of Mughal-E-Azam

Mughal-E-Azam, the mega movie first released as a black and white feature in 1960, has been resurrected twice. The first was when it was painstakingly converted to color and re-released in 2004. The second was when Feroze Abbas Khan, seeing the color version of the musical, decided to bring it to stage.

Mughal-E-Azam the musical, is currently on its North American tour. It made its third stop in the Lyric Performing Arts Center in Baltimore, Maryland. It has already hadsuccessful shows in Atlanta and New York.

On the opening night, people mostly clad in traditional desi clothing showed up in huge numbers much before show time. There was plenty to keep them busy. They lined up to take pictures with the many props and backdrops in the foyer. Many donned Anarkali caps, which were passed from one group to the next.

Color and Dazzle

The show began with a message from the late Bharat Ratna winner Lata Mangeshkar recalling her experience recording the songs for the film under legendary music composer Naushad. The excitement was evident in the auditorium. Though the musical is in Hindi, English subtitles running down screens on either side of the stage made it easy for other groups to understand the dialogue.

The show has retained most of the songs and dialogues from the original film. The Kathak performances by 26 dancers with multiple costume changes brought to life to the songs of the film. While the audience applauded at the end of each song, the longest response was after “Pyar kiya to darna kya.”

The large props must have been a logistical nightmare to ship to the U.S. and then to 13 locations. The lights and effects were incredible, with the sheesh mahal scene represented by a screen projection.

One highlight was the live qawaali duel in “Teri mehfil mein kismat azmakar” between Anarkali and Bahar.

The performances that stood out were that of Sonal Jha and Nissar Khan, Jodha and Akbar respectively. One scene-stealing moment was the poignant exchange between the helpless mother and a defiant son: Jodha and Salim. The lead pair was played by Dhanveer Singh (who looks like a young Dilip Kumar) and Priyanka Bare.

It’s a Hit!

Anticipating a tumultuous response, the curtain call was announced immediately after the last scene ended. The standing ovation lasted five minutes. After it, Feroz Abbas Khan came up to thank the American audience for their love and support.

The director told SEEMA, “It’s been overwhelming and a humbling experience. The South Asian audiences are watching something like this for the first time and they have embraced us. They are giving us memories to last a lifetime.“

Mughal-E-Azam has shows in Orlando this weekend, and in Chicago the next. Whether or not you are a Mughal-E Azam fan, don’t miss this epic tale of love. Catch it if it comes to your city.

Seema

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