A Royal Romance Revisited

The story of Anarkali,a courtesan who dared to fall in love with a Mughal prince and was killed brutally as a punishment,has fired the imagination of storytellers,historians and feminists for centuries.

Published:March 31, 2013 2:22 am

The story of Anarkali,a courtesan who dared to fall in love with a Mughal prince and was killed brutally as a punishment,has fired the imagination of storytellers,historians and feminists for centuries. Now,Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) will present its version of the star-crossed love in the play Akbar Ki Mehbooba-Anarkali at Kamani auditorium next week.

Written and directed by theatre veteran Aziz Quraishi,the 90-minute play overturns popular versions of the story by positing that Akbar was enamoured by Anarkali’s beauty. “It was English merchant William Finch who first mentioned that Anarkali was Akbar’s favourite concubine. Finch had visited India between 1608 and 1611,a decade after the reported death of Anarkali,” says Laxmana Dalmia,treasurer of IPTA.

In the play,Anarkali is a belly dancer from Venice,who is gifted to Akbar by a Turkish sultan in his attempt to establish favourable trade relations with Hindustan. Soon,Anarkali becomes the star of Akbar’s harem and his favourite concubine. When the emperor introduces her at the durbar,few can look away. Among those transfixed is young Salim. The prince decides to bribe Akbar’s harem keeper to spend time with Anarkali,but is caught. An angry Akbar sentences Anarkali to death and Salim to exile in Afghanistan. Dalmia adds that the first half of the play is different from the popular versions of the romance but the second half is almost the same.

This is not IPTA’s first tryst with Akbar,Anarkali and Salim. In the ’70s,the group had staged the ill-fated story,with Pankaj Kapur and Neelima Azeem playing Salim and Anarkali respectively. In another version of the story,in 2000,the play showed Anarkali as a victim of honour killing.

The play will be staged at Kamani auditorium from April 2-4 at 6.30 pm. For passes,contact: 9818433222

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