Bringing alive the Mughal Empire

Bringing alive the Mughal Empire

Bringing alive the Mughal Empire

The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was exiled in Burma (today’s Myanmar) by the British and thus the Mughal Empire came to an end but it is from here that the play Sons of Babur begins and then proceeds to recreate the famous and infamous Mughal characters from annals of history.

Based on Sons of Babur by well-known playwright and politician, Salman Khurshid, under the direction of M Sayeed Alam, the play saw a houseful at Sri Ram Centre.

The two-hour play introduces its audience to Bahadur Shah Zafar, languishing in exile in Rang­o­on. The plot travels back to the present where an ardent admirer of Zafar and a student of history, Rudranath Mitra, is seeking a grant to visit Zafar’s grave in Burma for his research. To his amazement, he experiences a supernatural vision, in which he meets Zafar and thus the play swings between past and present where emotions are defined by logic and fact mingles with fiction.

In response to Rudranath’s quest, Zafar takes him on a guided tour of the milestone events of the Mughal era which slide into the world of Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, all brought alive on stage by the sleight of Zafar’s hand.
Tom Alter, who played Zafar was loved by the audience, who just couldn’t help being left spellbo­u­nd at the thespian’s marvellous depiction of the helplessness of the last Mughal emperor.

Tom kept lying on his charpoy (cot) and yet spearheaded the depiction of Mughal era while challenging the widely accepted notions about Mughal emperors.
Equally significant was Rudranath’s character (played by Ram Naresh Diwakar) who questions the righteousness of Mughals. The required comic element was added by Rudranath who keeps using English, a language alien to Zafar but by the end, the colonisation tool (English) is acquired by the emperor.

There are moments when the audience is forced to do a re-think on emperors like Aurangzeb, who have been portrayed negatively; and the significance of powerful women who commanded a lot despite being in purdah. It is in reply to these questions that Salman Khurshid says, “It is for the audience to decide the answers to the questions that arise from the play. That’s the beauty of theatre.”

Khurshid tries to showcase the benevolence of Mughals while simultaneously highlighting their ambition. If one the one hand, he makes the layman feel fearful of their brutality, he also makes them admire their ability to unite diverse populations into an entity called ‘Hindostan’.

The play came across as a history lesson to the youngsters present and left an indelible mark. Mukta Tiwari, a Std XII student said, “Even though I am a science student, the depiction of historical events has encouraged me to read history now. The actors were amazing but the smooth narrative made it all the more interesting.”

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