Even as the heat rises in Delhi,Feisal Alkazi is revisiting Mughal history in the cool climes of San Francisco. The theatre director is creating a play,Noor,with the cast and crew of enActe Arts,a US-based arts organisation. I started writing Noor long ago,when I became intrigued and captivated by the thought of a woman assuming so much political power in the patriarchal world of the Mughals, says Alkazi.
History,he believes,has not been kind to Noor Jahan. A Persian commoner,who went on to become the 20th wife of emperor Jahangir,she has been pushed to the margins of history by the more popular Mumtaz Mahal. What made Noor different being abandoned at birth or marriage to a brute of a man? I researched on her more and more,and ideas began to flow, says Alkazi. Her father was her vazir even though he had abandoned her at birth,and her brother finally arrested her though he supported her through life. She seamlessly slipped into obscurity once Jahangir died.
In the play,the queen emerges as a woman ahead of her time. She is a poet,scholar,fashion designer and a shrewd businesswoman apart from being a statesman and political strategist,who ruled the empire in Jahangirs name and amassed untold wealth. Though the play has a number of Indians,including Vinita Sud Belani,the Artistic Director of enActe Arts,who is playing the title role,Alkazi says there is an Iraqi Akbar,an Iranian Jahangir and a Peruvian actor in the role of a eunuch.
Despite its historic moorings,the play appears contemporary as the actors have debated many of complex questions on gender,sexuality,power,revenge and dysfunctional families. The play will be staged in the US in May. There are no plans to bring it to India at present.