It’s rare for a movie that has enjoyed cult status to be staged. But Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) and the Shapoorji Pallonji group has been doing just that by adapting the hit Hindi film Mughal-E-Azam for the stage. This time, they will be staging it in Delhi.

Mughal-E-Azam, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, who is known for the movie Gandhi, My Father, will be performed at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium from 9-17 September.

It’s the grandeur of the show that makes it stand out. “The story is exactly the same as the one you have seen in the movie. But in my past 50 years of theatre experience, there has been nothing made on this scale," says NCPA chairman Khushroo N. Suntook.

This Broadway-style musical, 2 hours and 15 minutes long, was first staged at the NCPA in October 2016 and has seen four successful seasons so far. The latest presentation will be slightly different, with a new segment.

Mughal-E-Azam, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, will be performed at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium from 9-17 September.
Mughal-E-Azam, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, will be performed at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium from 9-17 September.

The play, much like the 1960 movie, revolves around the relationship between Mughal emperor Akbar and his son Salim, who is in love with a court dancer, Anarkali. A disapproving Akbar imprisons Anarkali. Salim leads the fight against his father, and loses. Akbar says he will be pardoned if Anarkali can be handed the punishment instead. Anarkali agrees, and is condemned to being entombed alive.

Audiences will, perhaps naturally, compare the play with the movie. But Khan is confident that the Delhi audience will like it just as much as the ones in Mumbai. “There has to be a blend of nostalgia and the modern. The audience may tend to draw comparisons with the film, but they are surely not going to be disappointed; in fact, the play will have them reminisce about the film, and that’s a good thing," he adds.

“It is also noteworthy that while you may feel that comparisons may arise, we are actually using technology to a much larger extent, compared to what was available when the movie was made," says Suntook.

Piyush Kanojia has given the music, while Mayuri Upadhya has done the choreography. The costumes have been designed by Manish Malhotra. The musical will star theatre actors Nissar Khan as Akbar, Priyanka Barve as Anarkali and Dhanveer Singh as Salim.

The show will return to Mumbai in late 2018—for now, the producers hope their attempt to modernize the story for Delhi will prove successful. “A modern interpretation of a classic does not necessarily mean the new one would be better or worse than the original. It is only a new way of saying it, and for us this musical is to bring the story of Mughal-E-Azam back to our audience, but this time on stage," says Suntook.

Mughal-E-Azam will be performed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium, Pragati Vihar, Barapulllah Elevated Road, from 9-17 September, 3pm (Friday, Saturdays and Sundays) and 7pm. Tickets, 500-10,000, available on in.bookmyshow.com

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